Brown won’t gut public records act

The Sacramento Bee is reporting this afternoon (June 20) that Gov. Jerry Brown is backing away from his plan to make key provisions of the Public Records Act voluntary, a move that critics had said would gut the law that gives the public and media access to government records. A bill to weaken the Public Records Act was added to the state budget on Friday, and passed by both houses. The Brown Administration’s Department of Finance said the move was

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Brown expected to sign legislation weakening open records law

A legislation that makes it optional for cities, counties, school districts and other government agencies to comply with key provisions of the California Public Records Act is expected to be signed into law today (June 19) by Gov. Jerry Brown. The act now requires officials to respond to a request for records from a member of the public within 10 days and to make the documents available electronically. The change, which Brown requested as a cost-cutting measure, would allow the

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New excuse to delay public records request

Charles Piller of the Sacramento Bee reports that state and local government officials increasingly are blaming budget cuts and furloughs when they withhold or delay the release of information requested under the state Public Records Act. The result is a diminished ability for the media to perform their watchdog role – just when downsized programs and government dysfunction make that scrutiny more crucial, Piller writes. High fees and long delays in responses from agencies in California have weakened the public’s

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Open records victory in Santa Clara County

The Merc’s John Woolfolk reports that Santa Clara County has agreed to pay $500,000 to settle a lawsuit over the county’s attempt to charge astronomically high fees for access to the county’s electronic maps. It’s the largest payment of its kind in a California public records dispute, experts told the Merc. The money was paid this week to the California First Amendment Coalition to cover its legal bills in the three-year fight. The maps — including aerial photographs, jurisdictional boundaries, assessor

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‘California Public Records Act be damned’

The SF Weekly’s Joe Eskenazi reports that lobbyists funded by the city of San Francisco pushed for a state law that carves out an exception in the California Public Records Act. Assembly Bill 101 of 2007, sponsored by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (right) and the city of SF, allows the city to keep confidential the pictures taken by forward-facing cameras on Muni vehicles that photographed those who parked in bus zones and such. Normally such pictures would be public record. But

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Technicality stops open-records lawsuit

The Tracy Press reports that its lawsuit seeking the e-mails of a city councilwoman was thrown out by an appeals court because the paper failed to name the councilwoman as a defendant in its action. Said Tracy Press Publisher Bob Matthews: “It’s too bad we lost on a technical issue. It was our mistake, and thus the higher court’s hands were tied … This city is no friend of open government — it simply conflicts too much with their back-room

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New service to help with records requests

Californians Aware, a nonprofit open government advocacy group, is offering a new service to help people make public records requests via the Internet. CalAware’s new “SunScribe” will offer three levels of service: • The basic level will be a do-it-yourself option that will generate a form letter for the user to submit. This service is free to CalAware members, or $2.99 to others. • For those seeking anonymity as requesters, CalAware will contact the relevant agency on the user’s behalf

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Court: Government salaries are public info

The state Supreme Court ruled today that the salaries of government employees in California are a matter of public record and must be available upon request to “ensure transparency in government.” The decision, stemming from a lawsuit the Contra Costa Times brought against the City of Oakland, ends a three-year-long legal battle. The decision overrules a 2003 appellate court decision in a San Mateo County case that governments have cited to block access to salary data. In that San Mateo

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Suit to open police records moves forward

A judge has allowed an usual lawsuit accusing several police departments in Santa Clara County of withholding public information to go forward. But the plaintiffs, a wealthy and politically active couple from Saratoga, never asked for any documents themselves. Instead, Janice and Ronald Naymark are suing because they don’t want their tax dollars used by agenices that do not obey the law. As reported by the Press Club on Feb. 22, the Naymarks sued after reading a story in the

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Couple sues 7 police agenices over records

CalAware’s audit to determine if police agenices are obeying state open records laws has resulted in an usual lawsuit. A politically active retired Saratoga couple, Janice and Ronald Naymark, have sued seven police agenices operating in Santa Clara County, alleging that they have a long history of ignoring the public’s right to know. The suit, reported Wednesday by the Mercury News, is unique because the Naymarks weren’t denied any information by the various police agenices. Instead, their lawyer, James McManis,

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