As you may know, email retention policies among public agencies in California are a mess, with agencies claiming, however implausibly, that they automatically delete emails very rapidly, sometimes even immediately on receipt. This would seem to run afoul of the law at Government Code §34090, which states pretty clearly that cities are not to delete public records less than two years old. And the California Public Records Act at §6252(g) explicitly defines the phrase “public records” to include emails.
But cities and other local agencies such as business improvement districts along with their legal minions have cooked up amongst themselves a theory that emails aren’t covered by §34090 unless they make some kind of specific effort to retain them, like for instance printing them out and putting them in a drawer. This is the kind of theory, very popular among CPRA-subject agencies, that no one actually believes is valid. It’s only meant to hold up in court long enough for the agency to avoid sanctions for flouting the law.
And this year Assemblymember Todd Gloria tried to strangle this nonsense in its metaphorical crib with his AB-1184, which would have clarified that agencies are required to retain emails for two years just like every other kind of record. But agencies lobbied hard against this bill, pushing the narrative that retaining emails for two years would cost too much money. The bill passed the legislature anyway, but our feckless governor vetoed it and essentially let the agencies write his idiotic veto message.
That such a law is essential is not only obvious in theory, but the incredibly dishonest behavior of various local agencies shows how important it is in our very specific practical context. So for instance, here behold the entire Board of Directors of the entire Fashion District BID swearing under oath no less that they delete all BID-related emails on receipt and that’s why they don’t ever produce them in response to CPRA requests. And the judge believed them, although he admitted that the whole story was implausible. But no evidence controverted it.
Continue reading Even Though Gavin Newsom — At The Behest Of A Bunch Of Bad BIDdies With Dark And Bloody Secrets To Keep — Vetoed Todd Gloria’s Essential Email Retention Bill — The Question Of Whether Existing Law Already Requires Local Agencies To Retain Emails For Two Years Is Potentially Up Before The California Supreme Court — The Electronic Frontier Foundation And A Host Of Other Government Transparency Advocates Urge The Court To Accept The Case And Find That The Law Does In Fact Prohibit These Book Burners From Destroying Public Records — Here’s A Copy Of The Amicus Letter — And A Little Assorted Ranting Of My Own On This Essential Topic
Yesterday the Aids Healthcare Foundation held a press conference announcing a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles for its alleged and exceedingly plausible arbitrary and capricious denial of an AHF homeless housing project. This is an important lawsuit with a a powerful and convincing petition in support of AHF’s laudable efforts to house the unhoused in Los Angeles. It’s been well-covered in the press.
Not quite as well-covered is the fact that in September 2019, as part of the lead-up to that lawsuit, AHF sent a request to HCIDLA for public records related to the bidding process in which their project was rejected. HCIDLA rejected it with a message stating that the Mayor’s Office had the records and that AHF should send it there. They did so, and a few days later Garcetti’s office sent them a denial stating “[it] is our policy not to disclose materials related to competing bids while the contracting process is still ongoing.”
Now, the CPRA is very clear on the fundamental fact that unless there is an explicit reason given in the law for withholding a record, that record must be released to anyone who asks for it. This is found at §6255(a), which says that “The agency shall justify withholding any record by demonstrating that the record in question is exempt under express provisions of this chapter or that on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.”
Continue reading On September 20, 2019 The Aids Healthcare Foundation Filed A California Public Records Act Petition Against The City Of Los Angeles — Just Four Days After Receiving A Characteristically Inadequate Denial From The Office Of The Mayor — This Is A Necessary — And Laudable — And Entirely Appropriate Action — I Can Only Think Of Two Strategies For Encouraging The City To Consistently Comply With The CPRA — One Is For Us To Pass A Local Sunshine Ordinance — And Until That Happens We Have To Sue The Freaking Crap Out Of The City Immediately Every Time They Illegally Withhold Records — Like Freud Said — If They Don’t Pay They Won’t Get Better — So Yay AHF!
Quick summary! In August 2018 I was forced by the unhinged intransigence of Blair Besten, half-pint Norma Desmond of the Historic Core BID, to file a petition seeking to enforce my rights under the California Public Records Act. So the usual on-and-freaking-on process of CPRA litigation happened and after a few archetypally zany moments, like La Besten denying under oath that those things her BID sends out via MailChimp are, you know, emails, everybody filed their briefs in July and then today, Tuesday, November 5, we finally had the damn trial.
And the judge, James Chalfant, did as judges will do, and issued a tentative ruling the day before, and you can read it right here. And then this afternoon at the trial, after some characteristically futile yammering by counsel for respondent, the notoriously feckless Jeffrey Charles Briggs, the judge adopted his tentative ruling, handing us, that is me and my lawyer, the incomparable Colleen Flynn, a major victory. In particular, said the judge, those things that MailChimp sends are indeed emails and the BID is ordered to search for them and hand them over.
Continue reading My Public Records Act Case Against The Historic Core BID Went To Trial Today — And The BIDdies Lost Big-Time! — Judge Orders Them To Do A New Search! — And Basically Scoffs At Their Argument That MailChimp Doesn’t Send Emails! — BID Lawyer Jeff Briggs Actually Argued In Open Court That They Shouldn’t Have To Hand Over Records Because Of The Upcoming Fee Motion! — Total Loser Move! — If They Were Mops The Floor Would Be Cleanest!
In August 2018 Katherine McNenny, with the able assistance of Abenicio Cisneros and Anna von Herrmann, filed a lawsuit against the Chinatown Business Improvement District because they had ignored our various requests for public records concerning such clearly weighty matters as their involvement in the appalling zillionaire conspiracy against the Skid Row Neighborhood Council. They continued to ignore the requests, and in fact they ignored the lawsuit altogether.
And in July 2019 we prevailed over them and the judge, Mitchell Beckloff, subsequently issued an order requiring that they produce the damn records, which they have also ignored. It is well known that the California Public Records Act requires government agencies to pay legal fees to prevailing requesters, which requires a motion to be filed with the court asking to be paid.
Our attorneys filed just such a motion last week, asking for more than $51,000 from George Yu’s BID. I don’t know if the BID is going to ignore this or not, but I can’t imagine we’re not going to get it or something close to it. The hearing is scheduled for February 5, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. in Beckloff’s courtroom, Department 86 in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. Get a copy of the motion here and stay tuned for details!
Continue reading Fee Motion Filed In Public Records Act Suit Against The Chinatown Business Improvement District — Asks For More Than $51K In Costs And Fees — George Yu And The Rest Of The BIDdies Have Hitherto Failed To Participate At All — And Now It Is Time For Them To Pay For Their Crimes
Maybe you remember that in June of this year I was forced by the unhinged intransigence of various CD11 staffers with respect to compliance with the public records act, with the able assistance of the incomparable Anna von Herrmann, to file suit against the City of Los Angeles. The issue was over emails mostly involving planters illegally placed on the public sidewalks of Venice by the usual Klown Kar Krew of psychopathic housedwellers, aided and abetted in their absolute flouting of the law by various CD11 staff members.
And unlike e.g. the Venice Beach BID, at least the City of Los Angeles knows when they’re beat and they started handing over records immediately. And although I still have some issues with the City’s compliance, especially over the formats in which they choose to produce emails, this wasn’t the time to fight those battles, and they do at least know when they’re beat.
A lot of the material they produced in response to this suit was quite important. Not least e.g. was this story about how former and not-really-well-missed Bonin staffie Taylor Bazley not only abetted angry housedwellers in another crazed anti-homeless hostile landscaping project but even discouraged them from planting trees because, spake Bazley, homeless people like shade.
And just recently the settlement agreement was finalized, and you can get your copy here. As is the way with such material it’s really not that interesting. But there is one really interesting bit and that is that the City of Los Angeles agreed to pay von Herrmann $12,665 for her labors.
Continue reading My Public Records Act Lawsuit Against The City Of Los Angeles — CD11 In Particular — Is Settled — The City Handed Over The Records And Will Pay My Attorney $12K For Her Trouble — Gotta Wonder Why They Think This Is Better Than Just Complying With The Law
Well, in case you missed it, in February 2017 I sent a request to the Venice Beach BID for various public records, and they ignored me and ignored me and ignored me, and finally I hired a lawyer, the incomparable Abenicio Cisneros, and in April 2018 he filed a suit against them seeking to enforce compliance with the damn law.
And now, finally, the case is done with the signing of this settlement agreement. Notably, the BID handed over the records and paid Cisneros $21,435 for his work on the case. This payoff is one hundred percent wasted money that the BID could have saved had they only complied with the law in the first place. But they did not. And I have another request in to them, so we’ll see if they learned their lesson. Meanwhile, behold a partial transcription of the agreement:
Continue reading My Public Records Act Suit Against The Venice Beach BID Is Finally Over — They Handed Over The Records And Paid My Lawyer $21,000 — A Purely Avoidable Waste Of Money — But What Do They Care? — Not Their Damn Money
This is just the quickest of quick little posts with no purpose beyond reminding you that (a) I am suing the Fashion District BID over public records and (b) they lost the damn suit in July 2019 and (c) they had an embarrassingly toys-from-pram moment and filed a stupidly intemperate appeal less than two weeks ago. Well, today, this very day, September 30, their appeal was summarily denied by the court in a terse two sentence order which could be translated from the legalese as something like “stop wasting our damn time and get out of my office you civically illiterate six-fingered morons.”
So that’s another fifty grand or so in public tax money, burned at the altar of their narcissistic self-regard by Rena Leddy, Mark Chatoff, and the rest of the Fashionista BIDdies. If only their lawyer, the weirdly angry Carol L. Humiston, would advise them in their own best interest to stop fooling about wasting other people’s money and hand over the damn records, which they’re ultimately going to be forced to do anyway, well, the world would be better off, but then I guess we wouldn’t have all these interesting blog posts! Stay tuned for round infinity, friends, cause you know it’s on the agenda!
Continue reading Court Summarily Denies Fashion District’s Idiotic Petition Appealing The Fact That They Lost My Damn Public Records Suit Against Them — It’s True That The City Of Los Angeles Unconditionally Bows Down Before These BIDdies But The Rest Of The World Clearly Isn’t So Impressed With Their Nonsense — There’s A Lesson In That For Them But Evidently They Aren’t Learning It
Maybe you recall that about two weeks ago I was forced by the weirdly intransigent refusal of CD14 rep Jose Huizar’s staff to comply with even the most minimal requirements of the California Public Records Act into filing a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court pleading with a judge to hang these blockheads by their toes in Grand Park until they freaking handed over the goods.
And because egregious, shameless, absolutely appalling noncompliance is a pattern and practice of these jokers over at CD14 well, today I was forced for the same reasons but a different request, to file yet another writ petition. You can get a copy here, written by the dogged and able Doug Ecks, who’s also handling my previous petition against Huizar’s office and who successfully handled a similar matter against Gil Cedillo earlier this summer.
Here I was seeking about three years of emails between Richelle Huizar and CD14 staff including Jose Huizar. Richelle Huizar was long seen as Jose Huizar’s anointed heir to the CD14 dynasty, but in the wake of his fairly super-sized legal problems she made the probably wise decision to withdraw from the race. And she wasn’t likely to be mere bycatch, either. Her position as a fundraiser for JH’s former high school was at the very center of the scandal.
So given her years-long embroilment in the ongoings at City Hall, and given the fact that everyone does everything by email these days, I thought it would be illuminating to take a look at these records. But alas, it was not to be. Jose Huizar staffer Isaiah Calvin eventually handed over a pathetic 51 pages of material, insanely redacted, obviously exceedingly, ludicrously incomplete.
Continue reading This Is Not An Instant Replay! — In Fact It Is For Real A Whole New Lawsuit Against The City Of Los Angeles For Failure To Comply With The Public Records Act — And This One’s Against CD14 Just Like The One From Two Weeks Ago — Looking For Emails Between Richelle Huizar And City Staff — More Isaiah Calvin Nonsense — Claims It Is Clearly In The Public Interest To Withhold Her Emails — Maybe A Certain Segment Of The Public I Could Believe — That Segment Consisting Only Of Richelle And Jose Huizar — But The Rest Of Us Need To Read These Damn Emails! — And — You Know — I Am Betting That We Will!
This is just the briefest of brief little notes to announce that the Fashion District BID, which I was forced to sue because of their surreally intransigent refusal to comply with the damn law, and which got ruled against in July by Judge Mitchell Beckloff, is doubling down on their nonsense by appealing Beckloff’s decision! Here’s a copy of their brief and, as evidently even Bradley & Gmelich can see that unhinged BID attorney Carol Humiston is not to be trusted, they’ve brought in a ringer, Dawn Cushman, to write the damn thing.
At this point the issues are chasing one another’s tails in some high-altitude lawyerly empyrean hypersphere where normal folks like me can’t even breathe, let alone provide color commentary. I can’t even transcribe selections because who knows what to select?! Although even despite my ignorance I’m perfectly able to mock Cushman’s turgid and repetitive prose! So here’s a link to the brief they filed, and I’ll let you know if anything comprehensible happens!
Continue reading Fashion District BID Refuses To Accept The Fact That Judge Mitchell Beckloff Ruled Against Them In My Current Public Records Suit — So On Monday They Appealed The Ruling — Here’s A Copy Of Their Appeal Brief — But No Commentary Because At This Point The Details Are Beyond Me
Recall that in June of this year I was forced by the utterly indefensible intransigence of Gil Cedillo staffer Mel Ilomin, who would persist in his bizarre claims that some emails between his office and LAPD were exempt from production under the California Public Records Act, to file a writ petition seeking to enforce my rights under that hallowed law. And less than a month later the City caved and produced a bunch of emails.
Which, as you may know, makes me the prevailing party which, as you also may know, means that the City must pay my attorney’s fees and the court costs, which they just recently did to the tune of $4,720, and here is a copy of the settlement agreement laying out the terms. And one of the tragic aspects of this basically silly little case is that they have not mended their ways in the least. City offices continue to make totally bogus exemption claims for which the only remedy is another suit. And if that’s what the City wants, well, I’m not going to be the one to disappoint them.
Oh, yes, the interesting thing about that settlement! So the CPRA imposes various duties on local agencies, local agency being something of a term of art in CPRA-ology meaning “entity subject to the CPRA.” Like for instance, when a local agency receives a request, the local agency must respond in ten days. And when a local agency once releases some records to any member of the public, then by law the local agency has thenceforth and for all time waived the possibility of claiming exemptions and must therefore release that same record to anyone who asks for it.
Continue reading City Of Los Angeles Concedes Defeat In My California Public Records Act Petition Based On Cedillo Staffer Mel Ilomin’s Wildly Unsupportable Exemption Claims — They Settled Up And Paid $4,720 In Fees And Costs — It Seems To Me Personally That It Would Be More Efficient Just To Follow The Damn Law From The Get-Go — Rather Than Paying $5K Every Time Some Council Staffer Feels Like Throwing His Toys From The Pram — But I Am Willing To Admit That I Have Zero Experience In Running Major Cities — So Perhaps This Loss Is A Net Win For The City In Some Inscrutable Way That We Amateurs Have No Hope Of Unscrewing — Concluding With An Unscientific Postscript On What Bethelwel Wilson’s Petulance Reveals About Some Ad Hoc Bullshit CPRA Obstructionism That Mike Dundas Made Up One Time