Commissioners spar, then settle on document shredding plan

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on July 10, 2012 at 8:04 PM

DALLAS - The News 8 investigation that sparked a bitter, eight-month debate among Dallas County Commissioners has been addressed, but not exactly resolved.

Dallas County Commissioners voted Tuesday to prevent criminals from handling and shredding sensitive and confidential documents.

For more than a decade, Dallas County criminals have been working off community service hours by shredding thousands of sensitive documents, including psychiatric exams of juveniles, copies of Social Security cards, birth certificates, drug tests, even medical records.

Since that time, Judge Clay Jenkins has crafted 12 different proposals seeking to prohibit criminals from being involved in the shredding process. Each time he failed to gain the support of Commissioners John Wiley Price, Elba Garcia and Mike Cantrell.

Tuesday, Commissioner Cantrell offered up his own compromise proposal.

"They will no longer do any type of sorting, and they will no longer do any type of shredding,” Cantrell said. “So that part of the operation is shut down."

Community service workers would be restricted to handling sealed boxes of documents. Certified Dallas County employees will do the rest of the document handling.

But anything less than a total prohibition of criminal labor is not acceptable to Judge Jenkins and Commissioner Maurine Dickey.

"We can obstruficate [sic] it with all kinds of machinations so none of us can quite understand what's being said,” Dickey said. “But the bottom line is, we want public service out of the document business."

But the votes were set, then cast. Three-to-two, with Dickey and Jenkins on the losing end of the public service program (PSP) stalemate.

"I got a shredding policy, but I’m not happy because we still have PSP [Community Service] enrollees involved in the handling of boxes,” Jenkins said.

And after having his gavel stripped away by Commissioner John Wiley Price last week in a widely publicized show of disrespect, Jenkins may still be looking to get some of that respect back.

Judge Jenkins said Commissioner Price has apologized for last week’s gavel tug-of-war.

And while he's glad criminals, in theory, will no longer be handling sensitive documents, he's still not confident the problem has been solved.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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