Thursday, May 1, 2008

Interpreting the California Public Records Act

Vooice of San Diego
No Response on E-Mail Request

I just got word from Julie Dubick, Mayor Jerry Sanders' policy director, that the Mayor's Office won't be responding today to our challenging of their interpretation of the California Public Records Act.

Dubick had originally told me she would have a response today.

Some background: A wrongful termination suit filed this month alleges that a former top city official was fired for reporting inappropriate behavior by mayoral spokesman Fred Sainz. One of those accusations centered on an e-mail flagged by the city's computer system from Sainz to local newspaper editorial writer Bob Kittle that allegedly contained inappropriate language.

I requested that e-mail through the Public Records Act. The Mayor's Office refused to release the e-mail Monday, saying it was protected by an exemption in the law. While it didn't cite the exemption, we're assuming it's the pending litigation exemption.

Since then, we've been contacted by a bevy of attorneys (some offering to file a lawsuit pro bono on our behalf) who argue that the mayor's interpretation of the exemption is wrong.

The exemption only protects documents specifically prepared for a lawsuit, not any document that happens to be mentioned in a lawsuit, they argue. If the e-mail was public record before the lawsuit, it should be public record now, they say.

Stay tuned. Dubick didn't give me a precise date as to when the Mayor's Office might respond. I'm writing her back right now.

Wednesday, April 30 -- 5:49 pm

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