One week after Californians Aware and the online investigative news site Voice of OC filed suit against Orange County for release of a politically controversial letter, the county on Friday released a redacted version to local media generally. But, as noted in the report by Voice of OC Editor Norberto Santana, the release will probably not halt the Public Records Act lawsuit.
Can public officials use their private email accounts to conduct public business without having them scrutinized by those requesting to see them under the California Public Records Act? That’s the issue raised in a lawsuit just filed in Placer County Superior Court by a citizen curious about which groups have been having what influence on Auburn city council members on such issues as the recently failed ballot proposal to convert to charter city status. Sara Seyddin reports for the Auburn Journal.
A bill intended to protect whistleblowers reporting fraud, waste and abuse in state and local government while outing those committing it was overwhelmingly rejected by a State Senate committee Monday after heavy opposition by the League of California Cities, the city auditors of Berkeley and Oakland and two notable campaign funders for the majority Democrats, the California Professional Firefighters and the California Labor Federation.
SB 1336 by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) was introduced to continue anonymity for those reporting improper governmental activity of the kind investigated through whistleblower programs operated by the State Auditor, the California State University and city and county auditors, but also to remove the secrecy now giving the same anonymity to the public employees found blameworthy for such abuses.
The bill passed the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance on a 6-1 vote on April 26, but the seven-member Senate Appropriations Committee today gave the bill three No votes (Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego; Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Hills; and Bob Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga), with four others not voting (Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento; Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose; Ted Lieu, D-Redondo Beach; and Curren Price, D-Los Angeles). This outcome contrasted with the committee’s professional staff analysis, noting estimates of only minor costs resulting from the bill’s implementation.
The bill’s defeat leaves in place a system protecting and to that extent encouraging what in other contexts would be treated as white collar crime—typically in the form of defrauding the taxpayer of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in unearned pay or reimbursement for expenses not incurred on government business, the use of government resources for private occupations, or either ignoring or covering up for such larcenous exploitation by subordinates.
A summary from the most recent (August 2011) report of the State Auditor provides a flavor of the activity whose perpetrators the whistleblower programs do not identify, and how vigorously the responsible agencies pursue correction: Continue reading
How is $99.3 million in public funds being spent by private contrators to clean up the former Fort Ord for “re-use” by removing munitions and other explosives from the base? The Fort Ord Reuse Authority, a public agency, is saying it doesn’t know and doesn’t have the right to find out. A nonprofit group, Keep Fort Ord Wild, isn’t accepting that for an answer and has taken its public records request to court. Virginia Hennessey explains in the Monterey County Herald. Continue reading
A website based at Syracuse University shows 118 active Freedom of Information Act cases filed in the federal courts in California since October 1, 2009. The display shows seven cases filed in Sacramento, eight in San Jose, nine in San Diego, 10 in Fresno, 21 in Los Angeles, 22 in Oakland, and 41 in San Francisco. Continue reading
Governor Brown’s two new nominees to the California Public Utilities Commission won a confirmation vote in a legislative committee after pledging to make the body’s information on regulated utilities more accessible to the public, reports Jaxon Van Derbeken for the San Francisco Chronicle. Continue reading