By Sheena Dooley | Iowa Watchdog
DES MOINES – Des Moines former superintendent Nancy Sebring and her twin sister are gathering district documents and emails related to their controversial departures, filing a dozen information requests with Des Moines officials within the past two months.
District files show more than half of the 23 information requests it received since since June 27 were filed by Sebring and her sister, Nina Rasmusson, who also worked for the district. Sebring resigned as superintendent in May when sexually explicit emails sent and received on her work account and district computer surfaced.
Sebring and her attorney, Matt Brick, have sought documents pertaining to staff exchanges with media outlets, including Iowa Watchdog, and emails between herself, board members and Pat Lantz, attorney for the district. She also requested a copy of her personnel file, as well as all emails between targeted staff and Teree Caldwell-Johnson, board president, containing the word “Omaha.”
Rasmusson, at the same time, has asked for hundreds of emails related to her spring resignation from the now defunct Des Moines Public Charter School, which Sebring and the board opened less than two years ago. She also requested the sexually explicit emails between Sebring and her lover, both of whom were married.
“We are not going to speculate about the motivation of the former superintendent, her twin sister or her attorney for making these multiple and repeated requests, or what they think they are going to find,” said Phil Roeder, spokesman for the district. “They are free to make public records requests just as any individual.”
Neither Rasmusson nor Sebring returned calls seeking comment.
Sebring, however, said in a Des Moines Register report that she wanted the documents to provide a “full picture” of what happened in May, when she abruptly resigned from her current Des Moines job and another she was set to start July 1 in Omaha.
Also, she was seeking documents that shed light on the any closed conversations regarding resignation between the board and staff because she said an interested party inquired about her story. Sebring declined to name the party, according to the report.
Controversies surrounding their departure has prompted a spike in overall open records requests, with the district fielding 57 in the past year. All but six of the requests were made between May and August and all but 11 pertained to the charter school and Sebring’s emails, according to district documents.
Des Moines averaged one request every two months before this year, Roeder said.
District records show officials fulfilled three of Rasmusson’s six requests. One seeking the emails of charter school staff was closed out after she received a cost estimate. Another two involving charter school correspondence were listed as pending.
Two of Sebring’s requests were listed as partially closed-pending, meaning only a portion of the request was fulfilled. A request for her personnel record, district law firm invoices and a board meeting posting were provided. Emails and other correspondence between staff, Iowa Watchdog and correspondence to or from Caldwell-Johnson and Roeder that contained “Omaha” were listed as pending.
“Several of these requests involve hundreds and even thousands of records,” Roeder said when asked if Sebring or Rasmusson had complained about the district’s handling of their requests. “In fact, Nancy Sebring’s request alone total more than 6,000 emails. The volume of their requests is greater than every single public records request we’ve completed in the past year combined.”
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