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.
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.
A couple months ago I wrote on how a massive development project in CD1 was approved. One of the aspects of the story most surprising to me was the intimate involvement of lobbyists at every stage of the process. Somehow I had thought that their role was more like influencing City officials, suggesting outcomes to them, talking to them, and so on. Something like ordinary public comment even if supercharged by highly enhanced access to official ears.
But it turned out to be far more than that. E.g. lobbyists actually write ordinances, resolutions, and motions which are then submitted to Council by Council District staff. The lobbyists understand City procedures much more clearly than electeds and staff.1 In some sense the lobbyists are actually running the planning and land use process with civil service staff effectively working for them. In the case I wrote about in March Gil Cedillo’s planning director, Gerald Gubatan, seemed to do little more than serve as a conduit between lobbyists for the developers and City civil service staff.2
And I’m sure this is the norm, but given the dedication with which City officials and staff flout the requirements of the California Public Records Act proof is pretty hard to obtain. However, despite such obstacles there are still a few clues available here and there. For instance, let’s take a look at a project, apparently pending at least since 2017, at 2110 and 2130 E. Bay Street in the Arts District in CD14.
I’m a little late in writing this up, but on December 9, with the able assistance of Abenicio Cisneros and Joseph Wangler I filed yet another petition under the California Public Records Act seeking to compel the City to follow the damn law and hand over a bunch of records I had asked for ever so long ago. And as they often will do, they actually started handing them over immediately, although I haven’t gotten the most interesting ones yet.
The petition covers three major requests,1 unrelated other than by the fact that they were all made to the City’s Information Technology Agency. These are the folks to file CPRA requests for emails with if you want MBOX format, which ultimately is the best way to get emails.2 ITA is also the sole source for emails in the accounts of former City employees. Here’s a link to the very interesting petition, worth reading for many reasons and also containing every last detail of the requests at issue, described more briefly below.