Tag Archives: California Constitution Article I Section 3

Since 2016 The City Of Los Angeles Has Paid Out More Than $1.7 Million To Settle Public Records Act Litigation — Most Of Which Could Have Been Avoided By Taking Compliance Seriously — This Is Not Only A Betrayal Of The Public Trust But It’s A Huge Damn Waste Of Money — If Only There Were A City Official Charged With Reducing Waste Who Could Look Into This — Oh Wait Of Course There Is! — The City Controller! — So This Morning I Sent Him A Letter Asking Him To Use His Audit Power To Evaluate The City’s CPRA Policies — And Assess The Risk And Liability Created By Noncompliance — And Recommend Ways To Avoid This Waste In The Future — Including The Creation Of A Centralized CPRA Coordinator For The City — And You Can Read That Letter Here! — Along With A Bunch Of Other Nonsense!

As you may well know, the City of Los Angeles has a really, really hard time complying with its obligations under the California Public Records Act. And as you may also know, the only remedy for noncompliance provided by the Legislature is to file a lawsuit against the violators. If the requester prevails1 the law requires the judge to award litigation costs and lawyers’ fees to the requester.

And, it turns out, the City of Los Angeles not only has a hard time complying with the CPRA but they get sued a lot over it. And they usually settle quickly but when they don’t they lose. A lot. And they pay a lot of money to requesters’ attorneys. In fact, since 2016 they’ve paid off in 26 cases to the total tune of more than $1.7 million. Here’s a list of all of these cases, both as a PDF and in the original XLSX.

Probably some of these cases involve legitimate controversies over the City’s decision to withhold records from release, but as you know if you follow this blog, most of them are due to very little more than the incompetence, indifference, or intransigence of City departments. Most of these cases could have been avoided if the City had just released records that they ended up releasing anyway as a result of the suit. Many could have been avoided if someone had just explained to a few City staffers what their obligations under the law actually were.

So not only does the City’s continual, habitual flouting of the CPRA deprive citizens of our constitutionally guaranteed right to access public records promptly,2 but it also costs the City an immense amount of money. All of which is wasted since had the City just followed the law in the first place they wouldn’t have had to pay any of it. Or to pay the salaries of the Deputy City Attorneys who had to handle these cases after they were filed.3

The City doesn’t even have a CPRA compliance policy, but if it did and if it followed it, none of this money would be wasted. The City of San Diego, it turns out, has a very similar problem, which I only found out about because they have an officer called the City Auditor. He recently investigated San Diego’s CPRA practices and policies and made recommendations for improvement.

Which reminded me that here in Los Angeles there is a also City official whose charge includes the right to audit and investigate the expenditures of City departments and to recommend policy changes to stop money wasting. This, of course, is the Controller, whose powers and duties are defined by the City Charter at §260 et seq. and which include the ability to “conduct performance audits of all departments and may conduct performance audits of City programs, including suggesting plans for the improvement and management of the revenues and expenditures of the City.”4

So he’s empowered to look into this matter, but of course, how’s he going to know to do that unless someone brings it up? Thus did I write Galperin a letter this morning asking him to get on it and audit the City’s CPRA compliance and policies and make recommendations. In particular I asked him not only to consult with requesters about needed policy changes, but also to consider recommending that the City create a central CPRA coordinator whose job would include receiving, processing, and assigning requests to departments and then tracking and ensuring compliance. Read on for a transcription and stay tuned to find out if anything comes of it!
Continue reading Since 2016 The City Of Los Angeles Has Paid Out More Than $1.7 Million To Settle Public Records Act Litigation — Most Of Which Could Have Been Avoided By Taking Compliance Seriously — This Is Not Only A Betrayal Of The Public Trust But It’s A Huge Damn Waste Of Money — If Only There Were A City Official Charged With Reducing Waste Who Could Look Into This — Oh Wait Of Course There Is! — The City Controller! — So This Morning I Sent Him A Letter Asking Him To Use His Audit Power To Evaluate The City’s CPRA Policies — And Assess The Risk And Liability Created By Noncompliance — And Recommend Ways To Avoid This Waste In The Future — Including The Creation Of A Centralized CPRA Coordinator For The City — And You Can Read That Letter Here! — Along With A Bunch Of Other Nonsense!

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Tom Waldman – Communications Director For CD2 Repster Paul Krekorian – Our Second Fashiest Councilmember – Has Raised Obstruction Of The California Public Records Act To A New Level – A Level Of Unrelenting – Mindless – Primordial – Paradigm Shifting – Neuron Rewiring – Self-Justifying – Psychopathy – Which Is A Stunning Accomplishment Given The Baseline Level Of Psychopathic Obstructionism That Pervades Every Possible Interaction Between The City Of Los Angeles And The Public Records Act – Here Is Tom Waldman’s Story!

The California Public Records Act gives every person access to official writings because, as the law itself tells us,1 “the Legislature … finds and declares that access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.” And this isn’t just some random preamble to some random law. It is among the fundamental human rights enumerated in the California Constitution itself,2 which states that:

“The people have the right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business, and, therefore, the meetings of public bodies and the writings of public officials and agencies shall be open to public scrutiny.”

Among the other fundamental rights enumerated in this same article are freedom of the press, of speech, of religion, the right to civilian control of the military, the prohibition of slavery, equal protection, habeas corpus, and so on.3 This right of access to public records, measured both intrinsically and by comparison with the company it keeps, is hugely important. Fundamental.

But nevertheless, the City of Los Angeles4 habitually, consistently ignores its duties under the CPRA, flouts this fundamental right in a way that they’d never think of doing with, e.g., the right to be free of slavery. And they don’t just ignore their duties, don’t just flout the law. They flout it in the stupidest, most arrogant, most flamboyant ways possible.
Continue reading Tom Waldman – Communications Director For CD2 Repster Paul Krekorian – Our Second Fashiest Councilmember – Has Raised Obstruction Of The California Public Records Act To A New Level – A Level Of Unrelenting – Mindless – Primordial – Paradigm Shifting – Neuron Rewiring – Self-Justifying – Psychopathy – Which Is A Stunning Accomplishment Given The Baseline Level Of Psychopathic Obstructionism That Pervades Every Possible Interaction Between The City Of Los Angeles And The Public Records Act – Here Is Tom Waldman’s Story!

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Senator Ben Hueso Introduced SB615 Yesterday — Would Gut California Public Records Act By Requiring Proof That Noncompliant Agencies Knowingly And Willfully Withheld Records — This Would Make It Extremely Difficult For Requesters To Recover Fees — Which Would Make It Extremely Difficult For Requesters To Hire A Lawyer — Which Would Decimate The Already Lousy Compliance Level

Yesterday, February 22, 2019, Senator Ben Hueso introduced SB 615, a bill which would rewrite the California Public Records Act to make it radically more difficult for requesters to file and win petitions against noncompliant public agencies. As it stands, a petition filed in Superior Court is the only mechanism for enforcement of this essential law. Most people can’t afford lawyers, of course, but the CPRA at least tries to ameliorate this flaw by making it relatively easy for requesters to recover attorney’s fees from noncompliant agencies.

The law presently says that a requester wins a CPRA suit if the suit induces the agency to produce a record that was previously withheld. It’s not necessary to prove that the agency withheld the record on purpose. In fact, in Community Youth Athletic Center v. National City the California Court of Appeals specifically held that even incompetence or neglect were not valid excuses for not producing. Hueso’s bill would nullify this opinion and many others like it and require requesters to show that agencies “knowingly, willfully, and without substantial justification failed to respond to a request for records.”

In my extensive experience, agencies are already expert at denying access to records without ever saying that that’s what they’re doing. Instead they create an endless series of delays, errors, failures to respond quickly, and so on, which add up to a denial. I have had public agencies shine me on for years this way. And sadly judges are generally so deferential to public agencies that it’s already nearly impossible to prove that an agency involved in this kind of disingenuous delay is in violation. If it becomes necessary to prove that they’re doing it on purpose in order to recover fees there will be even fewer lawyers than there already are willing to take on these cases.

The bill would add a few other ways for a requester to prevail. Most of these are bad or neutral, but one is somewhat positive. That is the statement that petitioner wins by showing that “[t]he agency unreasonably delayed providing the contents of a record subject to disclosure in part or in whole.” Currently the CPRA says that agencies can’t delay access but it doesn’t explicitly create a cause of action for delay. Again, in my experience, judges’ deference makes attorneys reluctant to file such petitions. Maybe this would improve that situation.

That one potential improvement is not worth the destruction, though. If this bill passes into law look for already obstructionist agencies to ramp up their obstruction. Look for the already small number of lawyers willing to take CPRA cases on an affordable basis to decline sharply. Look for the already slow flow of records to decrease drastically.

Interestingly, the right of access to public records is written into the California Constitution at Article I Section 3, and in subpart (b)(2) it requires that “A statute, court rule, or other authority adopted after the effective date of this subdivision that limits the right of access shall be adopted with findings demonstrating the interest protected by the limitation and the need for protecting that interest.” Hueso’s bill contains some boilerplate language about this, but it doesn’t demonstrate anything, it just states it. The bill would clearly limit access, though, so maybe it would end up being unconstitutional.

And turn the page for a transcription of the legislative counsel’s summary and of the actual proposed changes. And then find your legislator and write in opposition to this crappy and dangerous bill.
Continue reading Senator Ben Hueso Introduced SB615 Yesterday — Would Gut California Public Records Act By Requiring Proof That Noncompliant Agencies Knowingly And Willfully Withheld Records — This Would Make It Extremely Difficult For Requesters To Recover Fees — Which Would Make It Extremely Difficult For Requesters To Hire A Lawyer — Which Would Decimate The Already Lousy Compliance Level

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How I Recorded Today’s Chinatown BID Meeting — And Got Screamed At By Criminal Ringleader And Big Poopy-Pants Whiny-Baby George Freaking Yu Cause I Wouldn’t Submit To His Weirdo Thuggish Demands — Then He Had His Weirdo Thuggish Security Guard Ban Me From The Far East Plaza Even Though I Didn’t Do Anything — Except Refuse To Bow To His Weirdo Thuggish Demands, That Is

Well, it’s always interesting to visit a new BID for the first time, and today’s journey out to Chinatown was certainly no exception. The BID meets in the Far East Plaza upstairs1 so up I went. They tried to get me to sign in, but I just ignored them because that’s illegal, innit?2 I did record the meeting, and you can watch the whole thing if you want here on YouTube and also here on Archive.Org if Google gives you the willies.3

There was a lot to write about at that meeting, but the most interesting thing4 was the fact that George Yu, just like that lady from the Arts District last month, decided he was going to confront me about recording his meeting, so he came over, just like she did, and stuck his face right in the camera, just like she did, and proceeded to embarrass himself in his anger and his shame, just like she did. Watch the whole frickin’ episode right here.

Now, a lot of other interesting stuff happened at this meeting, but I’m going to have to put off writing about it, because the very most interesting thing that happened today happened right after the meeting. As you’re probably aware, Howlin’ Rays does not actually define the the Far East Plaza, which also has some nice restaurants that are NOT overrun by zombie hipster hordes. And since the BID meeting was right at lunch time I thought I’d eat a banh mi and some pho before hopping the good old 45 southbound back to reality.

But after I ordered and before most of my food came,5 a security guard came busting into the restaurant and told me that the Far East Plaza was private property and that the owner didn’t want me there any more and that I would have to leave. Did I mention I recorded him too? Watch it here on YouTube or here on Archive.Org.6

I’ve been through a lot of crazy stuff when exercising my constitutional right to film BIDs,7 but this is right up there with the very craziest, which was the time I got screamed at for being possessed because I filmed meetings. Also, while George Yu’s argument makes some kind of sense theoretically, there are aspects to the situation that make it plausible that he can’t actually ban me from the property without some kind of reason. Turn the page for my amateur speculations on the matter!
Continue reading How I Recorded Today’s Chinatown BID Meeting — And Got Screamed At By Criminal Ringleader And Big Poopy-Pants Whiny-Baby George Freaking Yu Cause I Wouldn’t Submit To His Weirdo Thuggish Demands — Then He Had His Weirdo Thuggish Security Guard Ban Me From The Far East Plaza Even Though I Didn’t Do Anything — Except Refuse To Bow To His Weirdo Thuggish Demands, That Is

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