Category Archives: Public Records Act Pragmatics

The City of Los Angeles Continues To Produce Emails As Non-Text-Searchable Super Low Quality PDFs Rather Than MBOX Or EML Files — But The California Public Records Act Requires Them To Produce In Any Format They Use To Make Copies For Their Own Use — Which Includes MBOXes — We Are Finally Litigating This Issue — Hearing On November 11, 2020 — Read The Trial Brief Here — And A Declaration From Computer Pioneer Martin Haeberli — Explaining Why The City’s Reasons For Not Producing MBOXes Aren’t Reality-Based

This is what the City of Los Angeles does to image files when it converts emails to PDFs. It’s obviously not an exact copy, the provision of which is required by law. This is a completely faithful copy of an image file the City of LA produced in response to a CPRA request.
Maybe you remember that back in December 2019 I filed yet another CPRA suit against the City of Los Angeles. Here I was after a varied bunch of emails from the City’s Information Technology Agency. As usual, the City started handing over records almost immediately, which counts as a concession that they were wrong in denying my original requests.1

Also as usual they produced emails and their attachments as huge, unwieldy, non-text-searchable PDFs with highly degraded quality even though I asked them for MBOX files and the law requires them to produce MBOX files.2 They also produced attachments this way. You can see from the image what this process does to image files3 but imagine how incredibly useless it makes a spreadsheet! The CPRA’s requirement, found at §6253.9, is clear:

6253.9. (a) Unless otherwise prohibited by law, any agency that has information that constitutes an identifiable public record not exempt from disclosure pursuant to this chapter that is in an electronic format shall make that information available in an electronic format when requested by any person and, when applicable, shall comply with the following:

(1) The agency shall make the information available in any electronic format in which it holds the information.

(2) Each agency shall provide a copy of an electronic record in the format requested if the requested format is one that has been used by the agency to create copies for its own use or for provision to other agencies. The cost of duplication shall be limited to the direct cost of producing a copy of a record in an electronic format.

They refuse to do it, though, as they have been refusing since at least 2014. They change their reasons all the time, often in response to my pointing out that they’re lying about their capabilities. These days they’re not denying that they can produce MBOX files because everyone knows by now that they can do it even they used to say explicitly that it was impossible.4 Their current argument, also a lie, is that it’s impossible to redact MBOXes, so they can only produce as PDFs, which they can redact.

But this time we’re not willing to settle with them! We’re about to litigate this file format issue! The hearing is on November 11 at 1:30 before James Chalfant. Here’s the trial brief. There’s also a declaration from Internet and Apple Computer pioneer Martin Haeberli explaining the reasons why producing emails as MBOX files is far superior to PDFs and also explaining two perfectly workable ways to redact them in this form.5 Read on for excerpts from the brief and stay tuned for news!
Continue reading The City of Los Angeles Continues To Produce Emails As Non-Text-Searchable Super Low Quality PDFs Rather Than MBOX Or EML Files — But The California Public Records Act Requires Them To Produce In Any Format They Use To Make Copies For Their Own Use — Which Includes MBOXes — We Are Finally Litigating This Issue — Hearing On November 11, 2020 — Read The Trial Brief Here — And A Declaration From Computer Pioneer Martin Haeberli — Explaining Why The City’s Reasons For Not Producing MBOXes Aren’t Reality-Based

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We Now Know That The LAPD Lied To A Whole Series Of Public Records Requesters About Facial Recognition — They’ve Been Lying About It For Years — And They Lied About It To Me Too — I Recently Discovered Proof That LAPD Discovery Had Records Responsive To My Request In Their Actual Possession At The Time That LAPD Discovery Boss Kris Tu Told Me There Weren’t Any — And The LAPD Department Manual CPRA Section Requires LAPD To Comply — And States Explicitly That If They Willfully Withhold Records They May Be Subject To Punishment — Which Is Why Today I Filed A Complaint Against Tu — And Masoomeh Cheraghi — A Civilian Analyst Who Had One Of The Responsive Records In Her Possession When Tu Illegally Closed My Request — And You Can Read It Here!

NOTE: This post is about a complaint I filed today against a couple of LAPD CPRA staff and that’s a link straight to it if you want to skip the post.

In August 2019 I learned that LAPD used facial recognition technology to, among other random things, identify homeless people in Chinatown on behalf of outlaw Chinatown BID Boss George Yu. In September 2019 I asked LAPD for records relating to their use of facial recognition. They stalled and stalled and stalled until June 2020 when Kris Tu, a detective in charge of LAPD’s CPRA unit, told me that there were no responsive records.

Which, as was very recently revealed, was certainly not the whole truth. Furthermore, I recently obtained this email chain involving LAPD CPRA analyst Masoomeh Cheraghi. She responded in May 2020 to a February 2020 email announcing various LAPD facial recognition policies, announced that she was working on my request,1 and was told by LAPD staff that there was in fact a Detective Bureau Notice on the subject.

However, she failed to produce either the email or the Notice, although both are clearly responsive to my request. Not only that, but in June 2020 Kris Tu told me explicitly that there were no responsive records despite the fact that Cheraghi, his subordinate, provably knew of at least two of them and had at least one of them in her possession.
Continue reading We Now Know That The LAPD Lied To A Whole Series Of Public Records Requesters About Facial Recognition — They’ve Been Lying About It For Years — And They Lied About It To Me Too — I Recently Discovered Proof That LAPD Discovery Had Records Responsive To My Request In Their Actual Possession At The Time That LAPD Discovery Boss Kris Tu Told Me There Weren’t Any — And The LAPD Department Manual CPRA Section Requires LAPD To Comply — And States Explicitly That If They Willfully Withhold Records They May Be Subject To Punishment — Which Is Why Today I Filed A Complaint Against Tu — And Masoomeh Cheraghi — A Civilian Analyst Who Had One Of The Responsive Records In Her Possession When Tu Illegally Closed My Request — And You Can Read It Here!

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Mark Smith Is LAPD Inspector General — Here Is His Appointment Calendar For January Through March 2020 — And The Harrowing Story Of How I Managed To Obtain These Records Despite Smith’s Lies — And Deliberate Misstatements Of Law — And General Obstructionism — Smith Rehearses Before Police Commission Meetings — And It Looks Like He And The Commission Met With The California DOJ Outside Of A Noticed Public Meeting — Which Of Course Is Against The Law Completely — Smith’s Job Is To Enforce Constitutional Policing — His Compliance With The Public Records Act Is A Fundamental Constitutional Right — In California — How Can He Be Trusted To Protect One Set Of Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights While So Freely Violating Another?

Here are three months of LAPD Inspector General Mark Smith‘s appointment calendars. There’s a lot of interesting information in there, including what sure looks like a Brown Act violation by the Los Angeles Police Commission. And the story of how I obtained these records is also interesting! And is revealed below! But first, here’s a selection of Smith’s calendar entries with some comments on ones that interested me!
Continue reading Mark Smith Is LAPD Inspector General — Here Is His Appointment Calendar For January Through March 2020 — And The Harrowing Story Of How I Managed To Obtain These Records Despite Smith’s Lies — And Deliberate Misstatements Of Law — And General Obstructionism — Smith Rehearses Before Police Commission Meetings — And It Looks Like He And The Commission Met With The California DOJ Outside Of A Noticed Public Meeting — Which Of Course Is Against The Law Completely — Smith’s Job Is To Enforce Constitutional Policing — His Compliance With The Public Records Act Is A Fundamental Constitutional Right — In California — How Can He Be Trusted To Protect One Set Of Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights While So Freely Violating Another?

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Are Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy Gang Tattoos Public Records? — And Therefore Subject To The Public Records Act? — I Don’t See Why Not! — Although I’m Not A Lawyer And Could Easily Be Wrong — But I Could Easily Be Right!

The FBI is investigating tattooed gangs of LA County Sheriff’s deputies and a suit filed by a former deputy includes allegations of gangs with matching tattoos controlling the Compton Station. Thus the idea that LASD gang tattoos may be subject to the California Public Records Act is in the air! So I thought that I would give you my amateurish and decidedly nonlawyerly take on it. The starting point for any such inquiry is the CPRA at §6253(a), where we read 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. Any reasonably segregable portion of a record shall be available for inspection by any person requesting the record after deletion of the portions that are exempted by law.

This is very clear. If they’re public records they must be open to inspection unless they’re exempt.1 If Sheriff gang tattoos are public records, then we can look at them! So are they?
Continue reading Are Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy Gang Tattoos Public Records? — And Therefore Subject To The Public Records Act? — I Don’t See Why Not! — Although I’m Not A Lawyer And Could Easily Be Wrong — But I Could Easily Be Right!

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CD15 PR Flack Amy Gebert Told Me In 2019 That It Would Take Her 21 Months To Produce 10,000 Pages Of Emails — Where “Produce” Means To Print 200 Pages On Paper Every Six Months — And Then Scan Them To Gigantic Unsearchable PDFs In Random Order — And To Deny That CD15 Is Able To Produce Emails Any Other Way — Which Actually Is A Lie Since ITA Will Produce Any Quantity Of Emails In MBOX Format For Any City Department That Asks Them To — And Deputy City Attorney Bethelwel Wilson Apparently Advised Her To Lie In Precisely This Way — I Have Neither Time Nor Capacity To Sue The City For Every One Of Its Hundreds Of CPRA Violations — And That Doesn’t Help Against Lawyers Anyway — So I Filed A Complaint With The Ethics Commission — Against Both Of These Miscreants — For Misusing Their Positions To Create A Private Disadvantage For Me — A Violation Of LAMC 49.5.5(A) — And You Can Get A Copy Of The Complaint Right Here!

TL;DR I filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission against CD15 staffer Amy Gebert and Deputy City Attorney Bethelwel Wilson and you can get a copy of it right here.

In June 2019 I asked Joe Buscaino’s PR flack Amy Gebert for some emails. After wasting three months on bad-faith arguments she agreed to produce 10,000 pages by April 2021. In March 2020 she produced the first two hundred1 pages, printed out on paper, in an untidy stack, and told me I’d have to pay $0.10 per page to obtain copies.

Then earlier this month she produced another few hundred pages, many not even responsive, although this time she printed them on paper and scanned them to PDFs for me.2 When I asked her to follow the law and produce them as MBOX files she lied and told me that CD15 didn’t have the technical capacity to do that. Bethelwel Wilson of the City Attorney’s Office apparently told her to use that excuse.
Continue reading CD15 PR Flack Amy Gebert Told Me In 2019 That It Would Take Her 21 Months To Produce 10,000 Pages Of Emails — Where “Produce” Means To Print 200 Pages On Paper Every Six Months — And Then Scan Them To Gigantic Unsearchable PDFs In Random Order — And To Deny That CD15 Is Able To Produce Emails Any Other Way — Which Actually Is A Lie Since ITA Will Produce Any Quantity Of Emails In MBOX Format For Any City Department That Asks Them To — And Deputy City Attorney Bethelwel Wilson Apparently Advised Her To Lie In Precisely This Way — I Have Neither Time Nor Capacity To Sue The City For Every One Of Its Hundreds Of CPRA Violations — And That Doesn’t Help Against Lawyers Anyway — So I Filed A Complaint With The Ethics Commission — Against Both Of These Miscreants — For Misusing Their Positions To Create A Private Disadvantage For Me — A Violation Of LAMC 49.5.5(A) — And You Can Get A Copy Of The Complaint Right Here!

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Lt. Marla Ciuffetelli Runs LAPD’s Public Records Unit — And She Refuses To Publish CPRA Requests On NextRequest — So That They Remain Unreadable And Unsearchable By The Public — This Is A Direct Violation Of A Settlement Agreement LAPD Signed Last Year To Settle A Monumental CPRA Case — So I Filed A Complaint With LAPD About Ciuffetelli’s Transgressions — Which You Can Read Here — Of Course!

In 2017 the ACLU of Southern California sued the Los Angeles Police Department over their habitual egregious violations of the California Public Records Act. The City settled the case in September 2019 by paying the ACLU $57K and signing an extensive agreement which included a number of conditions regarding LAPD’s CPRA practices.

One of the conditions requires LAPD to use a web platform for handling CPRA requests, to publish the requests so that they’re searchable, and to publish records produced as well. The full text of this clause is transcribed below. The City addressed this requirement by adopting NextRequest, but so far LAPD has failed to publish requests consistently, and even when they do publish them, they often won’t publish the released documents or the conversation with the requester, both of which the settlement requires them to do.

In particular, at the time of writing, requests 19-4413 and 19-4414 remain unpublished and the released documents remain unavailable and unsearchable for anyone but the logged-in requester. It’s essential that LAPD publish all published requests, but I have a particular interest in these two given that recently LAPD Chief Michel Moore publicly accused me of making requests that “are intentionally designed to be unclear, confounding, and/or overbroad.”

The evidence Moore cited is based on these two requests, which are none of the things he accuses me of intentionally designing them to be. So a couple weeks ago I asked LAPD Lt. Marla Ciuffetelli, new boss of the CPRA Unit, to publish them. She has so far completely ignored my request1 despite the fact that LAPD is subject to a court order requiring publication and despite the fact that the requests are themselves public records, which I requested.

But one of the other clauses in the agreement says that LAPD officers who willfully violate the CPRA may be subject to discipline. So yesterday I filed this complaint against Ciuffetelli with Bryan Lium, her superior officer, which is also transcribed below.2 I am sure that as they usually do they’ll kick it around for a year or two and then exonerate Ciuffetelli, but maybe not. In any case, I will certainly let you know what happens!
Continue reading Lt. Marla Ciuffetelli Runs LAPD’s Public Records Unit — And She Refuses To Publish CPRA Requests On NextRequest — So That They Remain Unreadable And Unsearchable By The Public — This Is A Direct Violation Of A Settlement Agreement LAPD Signed Last Year To Settle A Monumental CPRA Case — So I Filed A Complaint With LAPD About Ciuffetelli’s Transgressions — Which You Can Read Here — Of Course!

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In 1983 Public Opposition To The LAPD Political Espionage Unit — Public Disorder Intelligence Division — Was Strong Enough That The Police Commission Dissolved It — And Then-CD5 Repster Zev Yaroslavsky — One Of The Politicians Spied On By LAPD — Sponsored An Ordinance Which Excluded PDID Intelligence Files From The Much-Hated Investigative Exemption — Which Means All Of Them Must Be Released On Request! — Unless They’re Exempt For Other Reasons Than Investigative — But Even More Interesting — Maybe One Of The Most Interesting Things About The Los Angeles Administrative Code — Is That Yaroslavsky Specifically Precluded LAPD From Making A Burdensomeness Exemption Claim — Which Says That In 1983 LAPD Was Making Exactly The Same Kinds Of Bogus Exemption Claims They Love So Much Now — But Not About These Spy Records!!

There is a lot of interesting stuff in the Los Angeles City Charter! And I didn’t realize it before, but the same is true of the Los Angeles Administrative Code! It turns out that the LAAC includes a local version of the California Public Records Act. This differs here and there from State law, and some of the differences are really interesting.

Let’s take a look at LAAC §12.21. This is the local version of CPRA §6254, which is the main list of exemptions. The infamous §6254(f) is the so-called investigative exemption, which basically allows the cops1 to refuse to release any records which can properly be described as “investigatory or security files.” And the local LA version, found at LAAC §12.21(f), is roughly the same albeit localized.

With at one exceedingly important exception! But before that, some background! The LAPD Public Disorder Intelligence Division was established by Chief Edward Davis in 1970, apparently as a reaction to the Watts Uprising in 1965. The PDID infiltrated hundreds of progressive political groups and also spied on electeds from the Mayor to the City Council.2 According to historian Max Felker-Kanter:3

The PDID operated as an updated Red Squad gathering “practically all” information on “potential threats” and storing as much information as possible. It was, in other words, a comprehensive surveillance program that significantly expanded the department’s intelligence operations.

Continue reading In 1983 Public Opposition To The LAPD Political Espionage Unit — Public Disorder Intelligence Division — Was Strong Enough That The Police Commission Dissolved It — And Then-CD5 Repster Zev Yaroslavsky — One Of The Politicians Spied On By LAPD — Sponsored An Ordinance Which Excluded PDID Intelligence Files From The Much-Hated Investigative Exemption — Which Means All Of Them Must Be Released On Request! — Unless They’re Exempt For Other Reasons Than Investigative — But Even More Interesting — Maybe One Of The Most Interesting Things About The Los Angeles Administrative Code — Is That Yaroslavsky Specifically Precluded LAPD From Making A Burdensomeness Exemption Claim — Which Says That In 1983 LAPD Was Making Exactly The Same Kinds Of Bogus Exemption Claims They Love So Much Now — But Not About These Spy Records!!

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Michel Moore Sent Me A Really Aggressive Letter — Saying That I Ask For Too Many Records — And They Can’t Understand My Requests — Because I Intentionally Make Them Impossible To Understand — And Moore Reads My Blog! — And Doesn’t Understand What He’s Reading! — Or Pretends Not To — And Throws My Own Words Back At Me — The Ones That Don’t Say What He Apparently Thinks Or Pretends To Think They Say —And Yet In 2012 When Some USC Prof Asked LAPD For 762,000 Pages — Yes — You Read That Right — LAPD Was All Like Sure Thing Herr Doctor Professor! — Is 6,000 Pages A Week OK With You Good Sir? — And A Quick Calculation Reveals That All My Requests To The City Probably Don’t Total This Much — And I Don’t Work At USC — So No Records For Me!

You want to know how angry the LAPD is at me? Well, they are so angry that Chief Michel Moore, who apparently reads my blog obsessively but fails to understand most of it, wrote me a really aggressive, really disrespectful letter about how freaking mean I am to everybody and they’re not going to work very hard on my requests for public records going forward.1 No, really, read the letter! Cut through all the nonsense in there and all it really says is that they’re going to continue not filling my requests and lying about the reasons. But of course they’re doing that anyway, so it’s not much of a threat.

But let’s talk about why Moore is so angry at me! Start with the quality of my requests, and remember, this is Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore speaking: you frequently submit CPRA requests to the Department that are complex, vague, and/or overbroad, which create considerable burdens for the Department, and which significantly constrain the ability of some of the Department’s staff to fulfill their other work responsibilities and efficiently serve other members of the public.

This is interesting, because much of what he says is wrong. Some of it’s actually incredibly deceptive. First of all, I never write vague requests. I just don’t. What would be the point? Second, my requests are not overbroad, a word which in any case does not have an objective meaning in relation to the CPRA. Finally, it’s possible that some of my requests are complex, although I doubt it. I can’t think of any that aren’t straightforward.
Continue reading Michel Moore Sent Me A Really Aggressive Letter — Saying That I Ask For Too Many Records — And They Can’t Understand My Requests — Because I Intentionally Make Them Impossible To Understand — And Moore Reads My Blog! — And Doesn’t Understand What He’s Reading! — Or Pretends Not To — And Throws My Own Words Back At Me — The Ones That Don’t Say What He Apparently Thinks Or Pretends To Think They Say —And Yet In 2012 When Some USC Prof Asked LAPD For 762,000 Pages — Yes — You Read That Right — LAPD Was All Like Sure Thing Herr Doctor Professor! — Is 6,000 Pages A Week OK With You Good Sir? — And A Quick Calculation Reveals That All My Requests To The City Probably Don’t Total This Much — And I Don’t Work At USC — So No Records For Me!

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I Asked LAPD For Copies Of Their Official Podcast — LAPD Discovery Boss Kris Tu Refused To Hand Them Over — And Then Made Up A Bunch Of Obvious Lies About Why He Could Not Produce And Was Not Required To — And Then Told Me Actually He Could Produce Two Of Them — But I Would Have To Pay Five Dollars For A CD — Which He Would Mail To Me Or I Could Pick It Up In Person — All Of Which Is Not Only A Violation Of The CPRA — But Also Of The Los Angeles Governmental Ethics Laws — So I Filed A Complaint Against Him With The City Ethics Commission — And Also With His LAPD Supervisor — I Am Hoping That Such Complaints Will End Up Being An Alternate CPRA Enforcement Mechanism In The City Of Los Angeles

UPDATE: This story is about my attempt to get copies of 24 episodes of an LAPD podcast. LAPD has so far refused to produce them to me but I independently found a way to download them from the Department’s podcast host. I uploaded all 24 to the Internet Archive and you can get copies at this link.

This is a story about two things. First, yet another instance of the Los Angeles Police Department violating the California Public Records Act in yet another completely novel way.1 Second, about a new tactic I thought of to enforce CPRA compliance by the City of Los Angeles in general and LAPD in particular, that I am trying out for the first time.

The idea is that some of the City’s violations of the CPRA are specifically designed to hinder me personally and that this is a violation of LAMC 49.5.5, which forbids misuse of official position to create a private disadvantage. On Friday, July 31, 2020, I filed a complaint against LAPD Discovery supervisor Kris Tu on this basis. Read on for details!
Continue reading I Asked LAPD For Copies Of Their Official Podcast — LAPD Discovery Boss Kris Tu Refused To Hand Them Over — And Then Made Up A Bunch Of Obvious Lies About Why He Could Not Produce And Was Not Required To — And Then Told Me Actually He Could Produce Two Of Them — But I Would Have To Pay Five Dollars For A CD — Which He Would Mail To Me Or I Could Pick It Up In Person — All Of Which Is Not Only A Violation Of The CPRA — But Also Of The Los Angeles Governmental Ethics Laws — So I Filed A Complaint Against Him With The City Ethics Commission — And Also With His LAPD Supervisor — I Am Hoping That Such Complaints Will End Up Being An Alternate CPRA Enforcement Mechanism In The City Of Los Angeles

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I Have Been Forced Yet Again To File A Petition Against The City Of Los Angeles To Enforce The California Public Records Act — The Bureau Of Street Services Refuses To Release Emails About Those Illegal Anti-Homeless Planters — Which I Have Been Waiting On For Well Over A Year

Starting in 2018 gangs of astonishingly unhinged and utterly psychopathic housedwellers and some owners of commercial property began installing anti-homeless planters illegally on the streets of Los Angeles, aided, abetted, and assisted in their outlawry by City Council offices and LAPD officers. By April 2019 I had learned that not only were the planters illegal but that the City requires permits for placing structures or large objects on public sidewalks, none of which had been issued for these planters. So, via the California Public Records Act, I began asking for records.

In particular I asked for emails between BSS investigators and various CD11 staff. Later I also asked for copies of all citations issued by BSS from January 1, 2016 on for unpermitted planters and other structures placed on sidewalks. And after the usual months-long fruitless exchange of emails between me and BSS investigator Temo Llanes, filled with lies, errors, deceptions, and broken promises, the City of LA stopped responding to me at all. Hence the suit. Which you can get a copy of here if you are interested and there’s a transcription below. Stay, of course, tuned for more info!
Continue reading I Have Been Forced Yet Again To File A Petition Against The City Of Los Angeles To Enforce The California Public Records Act — The Bureau Of Street Services Refuses To Release Emails About Those Illegal Anti-Homeless Planters — Which I Have Been Waiting On For Well Over A Year

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