Saturday, June 18, 2011

What a Coincidence!

A few of us are back to working on the B.S. the city shovels on the city's public records release, specifically email policy and practices. Even the assistant city clerk who's job description requires knowledge of public records laws says ALL her emails are automatically DELETED after 30 days. This was her response when asked if she still has emails that clearly contain information related to public business (eg public records requests!).

Team ...Oh, come on now!

Worse, the city is saying it will not carryout any requests for public records that were executed through a gmail account or some other non-encinitas.gov accounts. This is really silly given the way they do the search within the encinitas.gov email accounts. They do not search the account. Instead they send an email to the official they THINK might have had such an email (remember that most of folks don't print out their emails and it all gets deleted) and ask, hey you got any email that might expose your malfeasance? If you haven't deleted that in the last 15seconds, will you send it over to the city clerk's office so some douchbag citizen can post it up on the web and prove that you've been lying for years? You sure you don't have any email to share?

For all you IT folks out there, the city says it scrubs its mail servers frequently so there is no way for the city clerk to do a search on the email themselves. I don't they can't afford a hard drive? Or is the burn it all attitude, to keep pesky citizens from getting to the truth.

When we checked to see what documents the council had received it turned out that the only council member who appears to come anywhere near following the spirit and the law of the California Public Records Act was Barth.

From the UT Watchdog this morning:
Scheer said the law generally doesn’t distinguish between public and personal email accounts; the main factor in determining whether an email is disclosable is whether it concerns the people’s interests.

“The law is clear enough,” he said. “The public is entitled to any public records about the public’s business whatever technology is used, from pencil and paper to text messages and email.”

Most correspondence by elected officials and executive staff is required to be preserved — and disclosed upon request — when it involves an issue affecting the public.

Enforcing public-records laws can be difficult if news agencies, watchdog groups and everyday citizens have no access to a politician’s personal emails, tweets, text messages or other communications, experts say.

“When a public official becomes a public official, they give up a certain amount of privacy,” said Peter Scheer of the First Amendment Coalition, a Northern California public-interest nonprofit. “It’s part of the deal. The public has the right to know quite a bit about what they do in the way of government business.”

Encinitas City Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar regularly uses a personal email account to communicate with city staff, reporters and others. She said she expects more privacy there than on a city account, even if the subject is city business.

“There aren’t rules that govern personal email accounts,” Gaspar said. “The rules cover, of course, the city email account. But there is some allowance for me to be a private person as well..."

Scheer said the law generally doesn’t distinguish between public and personal email accounts; the main factor in determining whether an email is disclosable is whether it concerns the people’s interests.

“The law is clear enough,” he said. “The public is entitled to any public records about the public’s business whatever technology is used, from pencil and paper to text messages and email.”

Why not stop playing games and lobby to change the law so that no written correspondence is public record?

Really? “There aren’t rules that govern personal email accounts,” Gaspar said. “The rules cover, of course, the city email account." So far the city staff has not been willing to justify statements like that. Gaspar is an elected official. I sure hope she can justify making a statement that seems to be a seriously twisted up reading of the open government laws. Worse, it is a practice that defies the voters' desire for our elected officials' writings related to PUBLIC business be open to inspection.

4 comments:

  1. Gaspar is really putting both feet in her mouth this time. When you are doing government business, such as communicating with staff about city issues, that is a public document regardless of what form the communication takes. Her logic is totally flawed. If she wrote directions to staff on her personal stationary not issued by the City then that is not a public record either? What an idiot.

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  2. On the advise of my attorney I was told to tell Dr. Lorri to STFU.

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  3. Kristin Gaspar is totally wrong on this issue. Sadly she is getting her advice from Jerome Stocks and James Bond. Both have scorned the intent and spirit of the Public Record Act for years and brag about it privately.

    If Gaspar is planning a future in politics, she took a giant step backwards with her statements to the Watchdog. A pretty smile won't save her this time.

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  4. Her logic is totally flawed.

    Logic?

    A pretty smile won't save her this time

    Pretty?

    ReplyDelete

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