Obtaining copy of 911 recordings no easy task
A judge dissolved on Friday an order preventing public release of emergency fire channel recordings related to the March 7 Salisbury Millwork fire that killed two Salisbury firefighters.
But county and city officials did not release the recordings until Monday evening after Post reporters made repeated calls and requests.
Salisbury City Manager David Treme returned to Salisbury Monday afternoon after attending the New York funeral of firefighter Victor Isler.
The city released a number of records related to the Salisbury Millwork fire Friday afternoon but not the 911 recordings. Treme said he did not know the judge unsealed the recordings.
The city planned to release the recordings today, as outlined in the original order, and also provide a transcript to media.
Treme gave the Post copies of the recordings Monday evening. The county had turned over the recordings to the city Friday after the order was dissolved, but a county official refused Monday to release the recordings to the Post.
A Superior Court judge sealed the recordings at the request of federal, state and local investigators, who were still trying to determine if a crime was involved.
Friday afternoon, investigators said they had ruled out any crime, including arson.
District Attorney Bill Kenerly said late Monday that he asked the judge to unseal the recording Friday after learning the investigation by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives was complete and found no evidence of a crime.
The order was dissolved on Friday at 3 p.m., shortly after city, federal and state officials held a news conference dealing with the fire.
Kenerly said the 911 records are public. “I don’t know under what authority they wouldn’t be released.”
The Post requested copies of the emergency communications on March 11 from Rob Robinson, the county’s telecommunications director.
Robinson told the Post Monday he had given the recordings to city officials Friday and any requests for them had to go through the city’s public information officer, Karen Wilkinson. Wilkinson also was in New York Monday and did not return calls.
Arnold Chamberlain, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, said late Monday that the records should be turned over immediately ó short of breaking any laws.
“These are public records.,” Chamberlain said. “They should be released by Rowan County immediately. We do not want to compromise any investigation, but it is my understanding that the ATF investigation is complete.”
Chamberlain noted many county volunteer fire departments were involved in battling the fire, and the records belong to the county.
County Attorney Jay Dees agreed that the county is the custodian of the records. Since the Post and others requested the records from the county, the Post should be provided the records by the county if there is no “lawful protection” otherwise, Dees said.
Dees added that he was unaware of the Post’s requests for the recordings or that Robinson had turned the records over to the city until late Monday.