Last week local hero and candidate for mayor Eric Preven along with the ACLU of Southern California won a major victory for CPRA rights in the California Supreme Court. This was well-covered by both the ACLU and the Los Angeles Times. The main point of this post is to make available some of the paperwork from the case, but here’s how the ACLU summarized the issues:
Today, the California Supreme Court affirmed the public’s right to access government billing records with private law firms, overturning a previous appeals court ruling in a California Public Records Act (CPRA) case brought against Los Angeles County.
L.A. County should now release the invoices for all closed cases, so that the public can learn how much taxpayer money is going to private lawyers to defend the county and its employees, including the many cases against the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department for brutality against inmates in the county jails.
In 2013, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California … and … Eric Preven … sued the county demanding that it and the Office of County Counsel release invoices detailing the amounts of money billed by private law firms in lawsuits filed against the sheriff’s department and its personnel. The lawsuit, ACLU/Preven v. Los Angeles County, came after county counsel denied several CPRA requests for the documents that list the amounts billed by private attorneys, which are paid by county taxpayers.In the opinion the court rejected the county’s argument that attorney-client privilege extends to government invoices with private legal counsel in closed cases, writing that “contents of an invoice are privileged only if they either communicate information for the purpose of consultation or risk exposing information.”
Here are eleven pages of emails from 2014 released to me yesterday by Miranda Paster of the Los Angeles City Clerk’s office.1 These provide a unique2 window into the process by which BIDs are created in the City of Los Angeles. It’s clear from these emails that, despite the fact that everyone in the City government denies it, the BID formation process is encouraged, facilitated, and inextricably interwoven with City action at every stage. Of course, this confirms precisely what the California Court of Appeal found in its landmark decision in Epstein v. HPOA: that “by giving the BID the legal breath of life, the City breathe[s] life into the POA as well.”3
Electronic versions of the HPOA Board of Directors minutes from 1996 through 2006 haven’t been retained by the HPOA, so while waiting on physical copies4 to publish here, I’m taking advantage of good old section 6253(a) of CPRA,5 which tells us that:
Public records are open to inspection at all times during the office hours of the state or local agency and every person has a right to inspect any public record, except as hereafter provided.