Catching Gov Officials Fibbing

See important technological update to this article below.

“Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar….”   Romans 3:4

Our government system today is built on lies.  We have come to expect U.S. Senators, Governors, Legislators, even the President to routinely lie to us.   Many have come to just accept it when the guilty party spends most of their time in Washington, D.C. or the state capital, and challenging them is a difficult process.  We have little say over this habitual pattern other than at the ballot box.

Yet, as many of us know this to be true, many still have a hard time facing the reality that local government officials, from the school superintendent to the city administrator to the county attorney, too often have adopted the same modus operandi .  Until local government officials establish a pattern of trust and integrity with your citizens group, assume they will lie to you, too.

This is especially true when they are proposing a new government spending program or a levy increase or a new multi-million dollar bond issuance.  You can pretty well bank on them lying!

It is often hard for citizens to confront their local government officials and their pattern of willful confusion, double-speak and outright lying to them.  More so, it is hard for them to engage a program to hold local government employees  accountable.   Local news media has long ago abandoned that responsibility, beyond the most serious offenses.

Here’s How You Can Turn Their Lies To Your Advantage

Begin a request for information (see our Public Records tab) by graciously asking for the needed material.  It is in their interests to stall you.    If they are stalling, we respond with the pattern established by the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-5.  Just keep coming back every two days and ask again and be more pleasant the next time you ask.  And ask again.  And ask again.  And repeat as needed, again each time more pleasant than the time before.  They will almost always break and give you the records needed.  Yes, we know they are being disrespectful to those they are to serve and they are likely breaking the law, but get over it.  This is how they “play”.

This process, though usually initiated with a written letter, often turns into personal discussions and an ongoing dialog with the local government agents.  If it’s by email, fine, you have a record of it.

Often they will give you assurances and promises which they never intend to keep to facilitate their stalling (I.e. slow walk) process.  They lie!

At this point you need to study the Wire Intercept laws in your state and determine if you have the ability to record any oral (personal) or wire (telephone, land line or cell) communications without their knowledge – calls that you are party to.  Many citizens confuse the proper prohibition against wire-tapping calls that you are not party to, verses intercepting and recording calls which you are party to.  There is a big difference in the two. Wire-tapping is only legal under court-order as it is recording a conversation between parties, none of which have given their consent.   Even if a “need” would arise, Copperhead strongly condemns any such efforts to illegally wiretap. The consequences of such criminal conduct could be serious!

But, where lawful you need to record the calls you are party to and do it without the other party’s knowledge.  Most states are deemed ‘One Party Consent’ states which permit recordings when you are part of the conversation and yet only you are aware of the recording.  The remainder are ‘Two Party Consent’ states which require both parties to an oral or wire conversation to give consent to the recording.  Giving consent is a different standard than simply being notified that a recording is being made.  If you live in a ‘Two-Party consent” state check with legal counsel as to the applicability of consent verses notification.

To learn what your state allows check here.

This site is not giving out legal advice.  You should check the state statutes in your state for yourself or seek a lawyer if you want confirmation of this site’s declaration.  Copperhead has found them to be accurate wherever we’ve checked them, but do your own confirmation before recording any conversations. (To check your own state statutes, find your state legislature’s official web site.  They will usually have a link to the official “Code” or “Statutes” for your state.  After opening that link look for a search engine and search under the term “Wire Intercept”.)  Again, the majority of states allow ‘One Party Consent’ recordings.

How To Use Lawful Captured Audio Recordings

We use audio recordings mostly as ‘back-up’ for our campaign literature.  My clients have something in place to prove our statement is true if the administration or proponent committee publicly deny our statements.  A common mistake is for clients to delay recording until after they realize that the local government agent has just aggressively lied to them. This is usually too late and the relationship has often turned adversarial.  A firm principle is to start recording at the very first contact with the administrators, especially any contact that is made before an official records request has been presented.  This will most often be the conversation where they are the most helpful and candid.  Much of what they later deny will often be based on what they stated during the first contact.

If the local government agent turns out to be honest and cooperative, at the end of your campaign you can simply delete the recording files.  This is easily facilitated by keeping knowledge of these recordings very exclusive.

If the government agent turns out to be lying and is publicly denying your account of his statement, if you have campaign time, lay fairly low at first.  Offer a minimal rebuttal of the denial.  This might embolden them in their deception to think, “All he has is our conversation over the phone.  When it comes to it, whose credibility will the media and public believe?  Me,  this “progressive” community leader who’s in the local paper and on the local radio station twice a month or that cranky, anti-tax committee?  Why certainly I’ll come out on top!”   They may be emboldened to escalate their denial and publicly accuse your committee of lying about their conversation.

At this point, you hold a press conference on the steps of the school administration office, city hall or the county courthouse (depending on the jurisdiction you’re working with) and hand out CD’s of the recorded conversation or provide a web link where the media can find the audio file for themselves.  Renounce their credibility based on their increasing use of deception, then call to question the credibility of their spending proposal and ask the governing board who oversees this administrator to consider beginning strong discipline, if not termination, of their contract due to serious manipulation of the public.

Credibility is often ‘king’ during such public ballot campaigns.  Exposing the lack of credibility on their part can often assure you of victory!  Yes, it’s too bad we have to go to such lengths but public service has become anything but “service” today and lying has become routine.

Case Study

Paul Dorr of Copperhead Consulting Services contacted a school superintendent whose district was wanting to pass a small school bond.  He blocked his phone’s caller ID, then called and asked for a copy of the bond dealer’s proposed bond amortization schedule and projected tax increases (usually a 2 to 3 page report) needed to service the proposed bond repayment.  The election day was coming up within 10 days and he did have a couple of local  taxpayers wanting to know more about it.  The Superintendent was asked if he could fax it in a couple of hours.  “I’ll be glad to, at least before lunch,” he assured Dorr.  The Superintendent likely assumed the caller was a local citizen.  When receiving the out of area code fax number, he asked, “Who is calling anyway?”  When Dorr provided his name, the Superintendent’s entire countenance changed.  He did not send it.

With the Election Day looming Dorr filed a complaint three days after his initial assurance, with the state agency that investigates lack of access to public records.  The investigator got the Superintendent on the phone and then ‘conferenced’ in the district’s lawyer.  They proceeded to deny the Superintendent had ever said he’d fax it out in a couple of hours and accused Dorr of lying, asserting they would use every last day the law allowed before they would release it.

The state investigator called Dorr back and said, “It’s a matter of ‘he said – she said’.  I’m inclined to believe you but absent proof, there’s really nothing I can do.”  After a pause, she continued.  “But, you know, in the future you are legally able to record these phone calls. If you would start doing that and send them to my office, that could help us tremendously.”

To which Dorr responded, “Check  your email account.  I just sent you an attached audio file of the entire conversation.”

The next contact this Superintendent had with this state agency was notice that a formal investigation for his violating state public records laws was being opened.  In his state, three ‘founded’ violations of public records laws requires a mandatory referral to district court for action to remove from office.

Where Do You Purchase Such Equipment?

The days of audio tapes are gone.  It’s all digital now with tiny little recorders being able to handle 500+ hours of recording time.   Many smart phones now have recorders as an application.  We understand if one uses a Google phone they can record any call and then Google (for free) will transcribe the call and send the transcript to whatever email address you provide it.  (I.e. Your lawyer)

Important UPDATE to this article.  Copperhead has been informed that one of the best new apps for data phones to live stream video and audio files to your Facebook page or to your encrypted website (for later referral to your legal counsel) is Bambuser.  This will come in handy if some recalcitrant civil “servant” abuses their authority and takes your physical recording device away from you.  Copperhead makes no recommendation on Bambuser other than to make you aware of it.  To find it check Here.

Meanwhile, for those a bit less tech savvy this is not a commercial or a recommendation but we like Olympus digital recorders. Make sure any recorder you purchase has the port and software to download the audio files onto your computer, where you set up an audio folder and store your recordings by project name.  We’d recommend you purchase the $55+ models.

For one source check Here

Good microphones are critical.  A reliable one we’ve used on the desk phone for years is made by Radio Shack.

To find it check Here

A super versatile mic adaptable to land lines phones and wireless phones is the Olympus TP-8.

To find it check Here

Some of the even newer tools available are spy pens, which record both video and audio through a lens the size of a pin hole.  We can’t vouch for any of these products but if you search “Spy Pen” on Ebay you’ll find models (with 8 GB of memory) for $20 (S&H included). They take about three weeks to arrive.  We know of several parties who’ve used these without a hitch, but again ‘no promises’.  Other more expensive models (and greater variety of micro cameras) can be purchased here or here.  Windows Media Player doesn’t play all videos and audio tracks back 100%, so you may need to download this free player to play nearly any video file.  Again, review all laws in your state starting at the site linked above.

One Final Case Study

One client wore a hidden digital recorder during an interview of the newly hired Superintendent to obtain his views of the board’s push for a new unneeded elementary school building.  During the interview the Superintendent admitted he only took the position temporarily, that he was going to commute from a neighboring city, was hired to pass the bond issue and then would terminate his employment after the bond was passed.

Meanwhile, two weeks before Election Day the Superintendent put out an “Information Circular” to the community that our clients had employed a ‘hired gun’ (Dorr) who didn’t care about their community and would move on once he killed the bond and received his money.

The radio ad we produced from this was way too much fun.  We used his own words from the circular initially and then said, “But Wait!  The real ‘hired gun’ is the Superintendent.  Don’t trust us, listen to him say it in his own words.”  Then we dropped in the recording clips into the ad.  Voters were angry and defeated their proposal.

If Your State Law Allows You – Record Them,  Every Time You Speak to Them.  Let Very Few People Know.  Keep The Files Until No Longer Needed.   If They Start Publicly Lying, Draw Them Out And Then At The Time Of Maximum Political Benefit, And Only Then, Use It Back At Them!

If you need help implementing check Here