Category Archives: Public Records Act Pragmatics

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

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.1 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

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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!

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.1 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!

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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!

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.1 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!

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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

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.1 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

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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

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

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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

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

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Essential Public Records Act Improvement AB1819 Signed By Governor Gavin Newsom Yesterday — Requires Agencies To Allow Requesters To Photograph Records — And Probably To Copy Electronic Records To A USB Drive — Freaking Take That, Government Bad Actors — Like California Alcoholic Beverage Control — And Los Angeles City General Services Division — And Pretty Much Every Business Improvement District Repped By Soon To Be Disbarred If There Is Any Justice Attorney Carol Humiston

Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed AB1819 into law. This bill will require agencies subject to the California Public Records Act to allow requesters to photograph records at no charge during inspection. Although it originally would have required agencies to allow the use of portable scanners, a late amendment only requires the use of copying equipment which does not touch the record.

The law also allows agencies to forbid the use of equipment which “would result in … [u]nauthorized access to the agency’s computer systems or secured networks by using software, equipment, or any other technology capable of accessing, altering, or compromising the agency’s electronic records.” On the one hand there’s no reason to include a clause like this unless the law is meant to apply to electronic records as well as physical records. This interpretation is bolstered by the fact that an early amendment limited the law’s application to “physical records” but then that was removed in later versions.

But there will be a lot of resistance to allowing requesters to make electronic copies and it will probably take litigation to sort this out. In any case, reaction to this law seems to be divided between people who see the value immediately and others who cannot imagine that agencies would forbid people to take pictures of things with their phone. But they will. And do. So I thought I’d close out this announcement with a couple of stories about it.
Continue reading Essential Public Records Act Improvement AB1819 Signed By Governor Gavin Newsom Yesterday — Requires Agencies To Allow Requesters To Photograph Records — And Probably To Copy Electronic Records To A USB Drive — Freaking Take That, Government Bad Actors — Like California Alcoholic Beverage Control — And Los Angeles City General Services Division — And Pretty Much Every Business Improvement District Repped By Soon To Be Disbarred If There Is Any Justice Attorney Carol Humiston

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Mike Bonin Has Recently Produced Hundreds Of Megabytes Of Emails In Response To My Public Records Suit Against His Office — Here Are Links To All Of Them — Along With Some Well-Deserved Mockery And A Transcription Of A Housedweller Rant By Venice Physician Melvin Scheer — Slightly Unique In That It Explicitly Links The Olympics With Homeless Displacement — And Possibly With Mass Slaughter — “Mexico City Style”

In June of this year I was forced to file yet another lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles to enforce my rights under the California Public Records Act in the face of their habitual reflexive intransigence, this time against CD11 over emails having to do with those goddamned planters. Well, as I have already reported, the City caved immediately and began handing over records.

And just recently I got another set of goodies from them with a little bit of interesting stuff in it, so I thought it was time to catch you all up on the story, provide links to the goodies, and mock and shame yet another unhinged homeless-hating housedweller, this one seemingly promoting Mexico City style mass killings by the Olympics Committee.1

Let’s start with the links. These are all the emails at issue in this suit that I’ve received so far. They’re not in any kind of order, and, as usual, the City has engaged in its usual passive aggressive scrambling, crooked scanning, chronological disordering, and so on, so, by design, they’re pretty much impossible to sort through and understand globally. But they’re still worth reading, of course! There’s a lot of material here, downloadable via bittorrent if that’s the way your pleasure tends, or by straight links:
Continue reading Mike Bonin Has Recently Produced Hundreds Of Megabytes Of Emails In Response To My Public Records Suit Against His Office — Here Are Links To All Of Them — Along With Some Well-Deserved Mockery And A Transcription Of A Housedweller Rant By Venice Physician Melvin Scheer — Slightly Unique In That It Explicitly Links The Olympics With Homeless Displacement — And Possibly With Mass Slaughter — “Mexico City Style”

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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

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.1 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

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World’s Angriest CPRA Lawyer — Carol Humiston — Counseled Her Clients — The South Park BID — To Violate The Law — Not That They Needed Counseling To Do This — But It Is Against The State Bar’s Rules Of Professional Conduct For Lawyers To Do This — So — As You May Recall — I Turned Her In To The Bar Investigators — But The Other Day They Rejected My Complaint — For Reasons That Would Make That Particular Bar Rule Completely Unenforceable — Which Can’t Actually Be Correct Because Why Would The Bar — Or Anyone — Have Intrinsically Unenforceable Rules? — So I Filed An Appeal Of The Closure — And You Can Get Your Copy Here!

Oh boy, friends, a small setback in my ongoing project aimed at getting Carol Humiston, the world’s angriest CPRA lawyer, disgraced, disgruntled,1 and, of course, disbarred. As you may recall, she counseled her ne’er-do-well clients, the South Park BIDdies, to absolutely flout the law by violating the public records act in any number of really weirdly flamboyant ways. And I discovered this because the BIDdies were kind enough to waive any possible exemption claims, if there ever were any, to some emails in which Humiston discussed her advice with them and with others.2

And the California State Bar Association has a rule against this kind of thing, Rule 1.2.1, which states “A lawyer shall not counsel a client to engage, or assist a client in conduct that the lawyer knows is criminal, fraudulent, or a violation of any law, rule, or ruling of a tribunal.”. So, naturally, I reported Humiston to the Bar Association in April. Well, they finally got around to responding, and, sadly, they rejected my complaint with this spiritually bankrupt letter, basically claiming that (a) the evidence was all privileged so they couldn’t consider it and (b) they weren’t able to determine if the BIDdies had broken the law.

Of course, these reasons miss the point entirely, which is that (a) the BIDdies waived any privilege by releasing the emails freely and (b) whether or not the BIDdies broke the law is beside the point since the complaint was about whether Humiston told them to break the law. This can’t rely on them actually breaking the law, otherwise you’re going to have to allow lawyers counseling their clients to, e.g., lie in wait to kill and eat their enemies, and as long as the clients don’t actually do it the lawyers haven’t violated the Bar rule.

That can’t be right, so obviously my complaint was closed in error. So I wrote a lengthy and comprehensive appeal and sent it off to the head office up north in the City and County of3 and you can read transcribed selections below, and stay tuned for the latest news!
Continue reading World’s Angriest CPRA Lawyer — Carol Humiston — Counseled Her Clients — The South Park BID — To Violate The Law — Not That They Needed Counseling To Do This — But It Is Against The State Bar’s Rules Of Professional Conduct For Lawyers To Do This — So — As You May Recall — I Turned Her In To The Bar Investigators — But The Other Day They Rejected My Complaint — For Reasons That Would Make That Particular Bar Rule Completely Unenforceable — Which Can’t Actually Be Correct Because Why Would The Bar — Or Anyone — Have Intrinsically Unenforceable Rules? — So I Filed An Appeal Of The Closure — And You Can Get Your Copy Here!

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