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.”
Watch and listen here as Kerry Morrison quotes Sheila Kuehl blaming the L.A. County Supervisors’ utter failure to solve our homelessness problem on the fact that the Brown Act requires them to hold open meetings and conduct their deliberations in public (full transcript after the break as always). The message essentially is that the Supervisors can’t get anything done if they have to do it when people are watching. This kind of attitude is, of course, the reason we have to have a Brown Act in the first place. Kerry Morrison’s statements are hearsay, and it’s just as likely that Kerry Morrison, in the throes of her fever dreams of a Hollywood Reich, delusionally attributed this sentiment to Kuehl. We’ll never know at this point.
Readers of this blog are probably pretty familiar with the Brown Act’s requirements. They essentially say that the Supervisors can’t discuss legislative action in secret. They have to do it in public meetings.1 The law doesn’t restrict the kinds of things they can talk about, it doesn’t restrict the kinds of deals they can make with one another or with third parties. It only requires them to conduct their deliberations and decision-making in public.
So Kerry Morrison’s version of Sheila Kuehl’s position is disconcerting. She claims that Kuehl claims that the Brown Act prevents the Supervisors from eliminating homelessness because “…they can’t converse with each other. You can’t horse-trade votes. … You know, so you can’t collaborate, you know, can we all agree on what we’re all gonna…you have to do it all in open session, and it’s very cumbersome…” The idea seems to be that the supervisors can’t have an honest discussion in public, so they can’t have any discussion at all. Kerry Morrison doesn’t elaborate, probably because the authoritarian world-view inherent in this statement is so comforting, so familiar to her.