We expect our City’s department heads to have some relevant expertise. We should ensure that they have the capacity to provide adequate oversight and direction. This is why an earlier Council set a policy regarding minimum qualifications for department heads. Apparently, they are supposed to have at least a master degree in the field and 7 years relevant public experience.
Many of the watchdogs have wondered about the sudden rise of Jennifer Smith to Director of Finance. She appears to have no direct qualifications. Why was she placed at the head of finance? Was there ever a public search for candidates?
The City is about to embark on a funky financing journey. I would feel more comfortable knowing that someone worthy is advising the Council. We all know that Council needs a lot of help.
When Dalager gave Smith a proclamation stating she had served with great distinction (or something like that) a searing image of the President came to mind. “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” Since then I have been determined to find out if Smith is at least minimally qualified. And it looks like I won't have to wait much longer
There are also questions about other department heads:
1) We have a Fire Chief who was on campaign teams for a majority of the council before getting appointed,
2) a parks and rec director who is supposedly qualified to also be a public works director,
3) a planning director who supposedly worked for Ecke before becoming director, and
4) after you read the following email the City Attorney’s service is also in question.
I did a records request for Smith’s application 5 months ago. The request was rejected. Others have made the same request over the last few months. The City cannot legally keep us from this information.
Why should I be surprised that the City isn’t following the law!
I recently called in some reinforcements. On my behalf, the General Council for Calaware sent the City Attorney and Clerk a sharp email. I thought you might like to be in the loop. I paste that email below. If you read the whole thing through you might think that the City Clerk should be added to the list too, but I suspect she was just following directions.
From: Terry Francke
Date: August 10, 2006
Subject: Access to Employment Applications
Dear City Clerk Cervone and City Attorney Sabine,
I'm informed by the attached message that for a little over five months, several area residents have been attempting unsuccessfully to get from the City of Encinitas copies of records that are, pursuant to the only case law on point, unquestionably public and not exempt from disclosure under the California Public Records Act.
As you well know and could have easily discovered within the first hour of the 10-day post-request period that the Act permits for such research, the California Court of Appeal for the Third District, dealing with requests for information about a public hospital employee, had this to say:
The trial court ordered defendant to disclose: "Such portions of [the employee's] personnel file as are necessary to disclose his professional qualifications ... or at [defendant's] option, she may, by way of compliance with this injunction, create and provide to [plaintiffs] a resume of [the auditor's] professional qualifications."
Defendant claims the order results in disclosure of the auditor's personnel file and is an unwarranted invasion of his privacy. We disagree. As we understand the order, plaintiffs would obtain information as to the education, training, experience, awards, previous positions and publications of the auditor. Such information is routinely presented in both professional and social settings, is relatively innocuous and implicates no applicable privacy or public policy exemption. (§ 6254, subd. (c), 6255.)
Eskaton Monterey Hospital v. Myers (1982) 134 Cal.App.3d 788, 794. There is no other case law contradicting or limiting this conclusion, nor in fact addressing the issue at all.
The force of this settled precedent is only amplified by the 2004 passage of Proposition 59, amending the California Constitution to provide, among other things, that laws providing access to state and local government records must be interpreted broadly, and limiting laws interpreted narrowly.
Quite apart from these legal points, to assert the "privacy" of public employment fitness information strips the notion of privacy of its meaning, announcing the principle that the public is not entitled to know whether appointed public executives have any job-related qualifications, and if so, what they are. One would have thought that with so much discussion in the past year of the dubiously relevant credentials of some high federal appointees, you would have found it awkward, to say the least, to maintain that such matters are not appropriate for public scrutiny. Taking this position, of course, tends only to cast doubt on the qualifications of the employees in question, and thereby does them no justice, one assumes.
I do not know whether the e-mailed response by you, Ms. Cervone, to Mr. Cummins on March 14—"Once I looked at the California Public Records Act, it clearly states that personnel records are confidential"—derives its blissfully amateurish error from your own lack of training, from your office's policy of reading exemptions overbroadly (to say nothing of superficially) in contravention of the California Constitution, or from the failure to consult you, Mr. Sabine. I suspect all three to be the case, because nothing else explains the lack of a prompt correction of the error, unless perhaps a contemptuous confidence that the requesters would simply go away. It has now been three weeks, according to the chronology below, since the Eskaton case was expressly brought to your attention, Mr. Sabine, by someone who had to do the city's homework for it.
If you both wish to defend your position in court and take the professional responsibility, at least, for the attorney fees the city would be ordered to pay upon an order to disclose, you can easily so signal by either a reply to that effect or by silence—by any response, that is, other than a notification to the requesters identified below that the requested records are immediately available for inspection and copying.