It took Legislative Services Officer Paul Coble more than a month to mail NC Policy Watch one email from July accounting for missing House chamber audio from the special session in which lawmakers retroactively changed judicial filing rules.
“So, not cut wire,” the email from July 25 states. “A power supply was unplugged that is used for the recording PC and the assistive listening devices — that is how this works.”
The email is referring to a House audio chamber recording of debate from the July 24 special legislative session. NC Policy Watch inquired about the missing audio in early August while working on a story about Senate Bill 3, a measure that retroactively mandated judicial candidates be associated with their preferred political party for at least 90 days prior to filing for office.
Policy Watch was told by legislative staff during an early August phone call that there had been a “glitch” in the system and they may not be able to recover the audio recording. They claimed at the time to not know exactly what happened. The Senate chamber audio, on the other hand, was successfully recorded.
No further details at the time were offered so a public records request was sent Aug. 3 to Coble asking for “all emails, text messages and any and all other documentation or materials to, from and between all legislative staff, legislators and legislative assistants that refers to any audio recording or the a/v system that records audio from the House floor debate on July 24, 2018.”
Policy Watch received a package today from Coble via U.S. Mail with one responsive email on a thumb drive and a letter dated Sept. 12 noting that it cost taxpayers $105.15 to fulfill the request.
The single email dated July 25 — prior to Policy Watch’s phone call — includes an “internal write-up” about the missing audio.
“It appears that a test of the recording computer was done at approximately 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday,” it states. “I do not know if it was listened to. Audio testing of the FTR (For the Record) software had been done on Thursday, July 19, during cabling operations. The power supply must have been knocked [loose] or removed from the plug after this.”
The audio, had it been properly recorded, would have been of the floor debate over SB3. It is now marked “audio incomplete” on the legislative website and is the only date listed this year that wasn’t properly recorded.
Lawmakers appeared to target state Supreme Court candidate Chris Anglin with SB3 — he changed his Democratic voter registration to Republican on June 7 and is challenging Republican incumbent Justice Barbara Jackson and Democratic candidate Anita Earls. The bill, though, affected a total of four judicial candidates, including Anglin.
A court has since issued a preliminary injunction blocking the measure, which means each of the affected candidates will still appear on the ballot with the party they were registered with at the time of filing.
Read the full email from Coble’s response below.