September 11, 2010,
On September 11, 2010, I posted a firefighters piece, as a tribute to firefighters around the country, on the ninth anniversary of 9-11.
I had a picture of two senior Albuquerque fire fighters taken during the June 23, 2010, three-alarm warehouse structure fire at Rosemont along Broadway Boulevard, N.E. in the Springer Industrial Center, whom I could not identify.
I e-mailed Albuquerque Fire Department’s Public Information Officer Melissa Romero, above, requesting of her to help, “Identify Ranking officers”, in an attached photo:
Romero responded the next day:I hope this is not too much of an inconvenience...
I am working on a tribute piece about firefighters.
Can you identify these two ranking officers?
I wrote:Hi Mark,
Our executive staff is listed on our website at cabq.gov/fire on the left.
The next day Romero wrote:Officer Romero,
Thank you for your response.
However, your website did not help.
I am trying to confirm the identity of the two men in the attached photograph.
Not having met these men I am unsure of who they are.
I rather get it right than have you write me that I got it wrong.
I normally am pretty good about heeding Thomas Jefferson’s advice to his daughter, Martha, “When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, a hundred,” not this day; I wrote:Hi Mark,
May I ask what the Tribute Piece will be?
I didn’t get a prompt response; I got no response at all. So, on September 15, I wrote the City’s Communications Director for Public Safety T.J. Wilham, “Help Identify Ranking Officers”. I related the content of the series of e-mails between Romero and myself, then:Officer Romero,
I could be a journalistic bum and tell you that as a public information officer your job is to give the public, you work for, information and your question represents governmental prior restraint "censorship", but I'm not going to, this time.
Your job is not to protect your boss; it is to dispense requested information, without filtering, unless the information is protected by law.
The identity of two uniformed firefighters doing their jobs is NOT protected by law.
I have already posted the tribute to firefighters of this country on Sept. 11.
I realized that I was unlikely to reach you on the weekend, but now you have delayed my posting (busting my self-imposed deadline) by an additional two days.
I put the piece up without the information, but I wanted the names of these two supervisors to complete my piece.
I covered Mayor Richard Berry's press conference a few weeks ago where he unveiled the ABQ VIEW page on the city's website.
He was asked a question about PIOs responding to questions in a timely, candid, honest, and forthright manner.
Berry said his PIOs, both in his office and representing all the departments, always did.
Are you going to be the piece of evidence that he is wrong?
I am a retired APD officer who served as a PIO probably before you were born.
I write a post called What’s Wrong With This Picture?
The posting is:When I Grow Up, I’ve Always Wanted to be a Fireman
I thank you for your prompt response.
…On Tuesday, her response was, "May I ask what the Tribute Piece will be?"
I got snipppy with her, telling her she doesn't get to ask that question as a condition of answering a legitimate request.
I told her what the piece was and directed her to my site.
The posting is: When I Grow Up, I’ve Always Wanted to be a Fireman.
I also told her about covering Mayor Richard Berry's press conference a few weeks ago where he unveiled the ABQ VIEW page on the city's website; he was asked a question about PIOs responding to questions in a timely, candid, honest, and forthright manner.
The Mayor said his PIOs, both in his office and representing all the departments, always did.
I asked Officer Romero if she was going to be the piece of evidence that proved the Mayor was wrong?
I have not heard from her.
The piece is now five-days-old, yet still needs the information added.
So I ask you, as Public Information Officer Public Safety, to help identify the two ranking officers in the photo.
I'll leave it to you to make sure the Mayor's statement about how his PIO respond is correct.
So what was the response from the City’s Communications Director for Public Safety? I never heard from Wilham, left.
It seems my name has since been removed from the Mayor’s office media advisory list announcing upcoming events.
The whole idea of having a PIO is to avoid having journalists making direct contact with city employees who might be interrupted from their duties or not sufficiently informed to answer questions.
I went to my local fire station and a veteran firefighter had no problem identifying the men for me.
I then told him I had trouble getting the identifications from the AFD’s PIO.
"We aren't going there," he said as he rolled his eyes. She's apparently not appreciated by some of the line firefighters.
I have learned from a senior City official that Romero had been caught up in a staffing issue. She is by rank a driver of a rescue squad. Rescue staffing became strained and it seems that paramedics voiced their concerns suggesting she be removed from her administrative PIO assignment and redeployed as a rescue driver.
So what’s wrong with this picture?
Instead of looking at the attached picture and recognizing the supervisors with whom she works day-in and day-out, and naming Fire Chief James Breen, and Deputy Chief Richard Sears, Romero engages in a game of hide and seek. She sent me to the AFD webpage cabq.gov/fire to look for them myself.
Though I had photographed Chief Breen at a City Council meeting, the profile of him in the vehicle had me questioning. Journalistically, getting names right is a big deal. People don’t like it if you get the name wrong or misspelled, and you can’t blame them. I was doing my due diligence and getting stiff-armed from somebody who didn’t have to do any research; she worked for these men and it’s her job to provide the information to the public, hence her title, public information officer.
However, she decided to continue to engage in her nonfeasance, by not being straightforward and honest. Each exchange took her a day to reply and ultimately after three days, she never answered the question.
In an appeal to Communications Director for Public Safety T.J. Wilham; I received no response either. Wilham is paid out of the police budget though he works out of the Mayor/CAO office of Director for Public Safety Darren P. White.
Wilham’s communications with me have been through the generalized e-mail blasts of after the fact press releases.
Next Post: Part Nine: September 13, 2010, Cangiolosi.
Part One: Republican Party gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez’ June 10, 2010 visit to Conspiracy Brews, Martinez’ August 11, 2010, Education Reform Press conference
Part Four: August 22, 2010 request to Democratic nominee for Lt. Gov. Brian Colõn for assistance getting placed back on the campaign’s media list.Part Seven September 1, 2010 APS Board