Schools chief convinces Omaha World-Herald to revise records request, and then…

Nancy Sebring abruptly resigned as Des Moines school superintendent on May 10, explaining that she needed time to prepare for her new job in Omaha. (It was supposed to start July 1.) The day earlier, school board leaders confronted her about sexually explicit emails that were discovered by school district employees reviewing a May 7 records request filed by the Omaha World Herald’s Jonathon Braden.

Nancy Sebring

The Des Moines Register reports Sebring tried to get rid of the emails after the school board found out about them, and “she also called Braden and persuaded him to revise his records request in such a way that it did not include the personal messages.” (My boldfacing here.)


Sebring tried several times to prevent public disclosure of the emails.

Immediately after Sebring decided to resign from Des Moines, Sebring called The World-Herald to ask about its records request relating to Omaha.

She asked if the newspaper could revise its request, indicating that the full request might encompass such emails as her sister congratulating her about the Omaha job.

The newspaper, unaware of the sexually explicit emails, agreed to narrow its request to deal specifically with communications to and from people in Omaha.

I’ve asked Braden and executive editor Mike Reilly about their decision to revise their records request.

UPDATE: Reilly sends this email:

As a matter of routine, we listen and try to be reasonable when a public official tell us a records requests is impractically broad.

In this case, a public official used our reasonableness against us and put up a smoke screen.

It bought her some time, but the important thing is that our reporters eventually discovered the story anyway and got it to our readers.

* School superintendent Nancy Sebring resigns after sexually explicit emails discovered (Des Moines Register)
* Racy emails kill Sebring’s Omaha Public Schools job (Omaha World-Herald) || Read the emails
* Des Moines school board accepts resignation after closed meeting (Des Moines Register)