Wednesday, June 16, 2010

California's Public Records Act - Its the Loopholes Stupid

Posted by CotoBlogzz 06-15-2010

Rancho Santa Margarita, CA  California government code section 6250 was enacted because the legislature recognized that access to information concerning the conduct of government employees is  a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state. The legislature in an effort to discourage the Madoff Syndrome, further declares that information means any handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, photocopying, transmitting by electronic mail or facsimile, and every other means of recording upon any tangible thing any form of communication or representation, including letters, words, pictures, sounds, or symbols, or combinations thereof, and any record thereby created, regardless of the manner in which the record has been stored.

So, how did Madoff get way without leaving a trail? He simply advised his cohorts not to write and or record anything.   Eerily, as we continue to look at parasitic bureaucracies, we find some parallels:


California Law Revision Commission
The California Law Revision Commission’s (CLRC) Executive Director Brian Hebert allegedly contacted a book publisher, to drop a book authored by a dogged critic. The book just happens to be a must read for residents fighting abusive common interest development/Homeowners association (CID/HOA) boards and for taxpayers fed up with the bloated California bureaucracy. We understand that as a result of the CLRC's actions, a lawsuit may be filed. Mr. Hebert refused to comment, stating that the CLRC does not comment on pending litigation matters.

We tried to determine the level of the CLRC’s involvement in the book matter studying phone record and expense reimbursement for CLRC staff for the period in question. We found there was a six-month black hole – a period where telephone records were missing. Mr. Hebert attributed the missing documents to a “service provider failure." In this case a telephone system failure. When questioned further as to what the CLRC was prepared to do to make sure the agency would be responsive to future freedom of information act requests, Mr. Hebert reasoned that his agency was not big enough and had to outsource its telephone needs. The implications are not inconsequential when it comes to transparency and accountability: Any government entity can avoid being subjected to freedom of information act requests, by merely outsourcing its communication needs for example.

“UOP ordinarily keeps records of all long distance calls, as an integrated part of their telephone service system. Unfortunately, their system malfunctioned, and stopped recording long distance call details during the period you've described. That error affected all of the phone lines at the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, including the lines assigned to the Law Revision Commission. As a result of that error, UOP has no long distance phone records for McGeorge for that time period. Consequently, long distance call information for that period was never provided to my agency, despite my requests that it be provided. To my knowledge, the information does not exist,” said Mr. Hebert. That is, all that a parasitic bureaucracy needs to do to outskirt the California legislature is to outsource its facility needs.
Orange County Sheriffs Department
In pursuing a piece we call FileGate in Laguna Woods, we filed a Public Records Request with the Sheriff on February 5, 2009, and although it took the department until February 17, 2009 to deny they had any records, a Laguna Woods resident did get a response directly from the responsible Lieutenant. saying  “the incident was documented in an Information Report, not a Crime Report.  You were not listed as a suspect of a crime.” – which means that the FileGate was not robbery or burglary as initially listed by the Homeowners association with the helped the of the OCSD investor - one of the FileGate outstanding questions.  In other words, the OCSD was not responsive to the PRA request: Messages left in the OCSD’s voice mail and or email does not show up.
California Department of Fish and Game
The Coto de Caza local governance in its infinite wisdom, with reserves at less than 30% (when they should be at 70%), not only continues to subsidize no-residents at the tune of $3 million per year, but continue to waste money pursuing annexation by the City of Rancho Santa Margarita. Since the city cannot see a compelling argument for annexation, the local governance continues to waste money left and right. The latest is building a Dog Park – the idea was apparently discussed in closed session (statute is very clear as to which topics can and cannot be discussed in closed session), including being in violation of California Department of Fish and Game. As we investigated claims that the Department of Fish an Game had filed a complaint with the Orange County District Attorney, we are told by a Department of Fish and Game representative that if the issue is classified as “under investigation”, then the department is not obligated to release any information. As we pressed, it was clear that all a parasitic bureaucrat needs to do to skirt the California legislature is to label the information as “under investigation” and that department will not release any relevant information.
Orange County Transportation Authority
In large part because of our efforts, a reported on the accident suffered by Coto de Caza resident Patti Pattison while was driving South on the 241 Toll Road,  the California Highway Patrol (CHP) was able to crack the case. Not thanks to the TCA and or the Toll Roads – while the department never responded to our PRA request, eventually it cooperated with the CHP investigator.
We have been asking lawmakers to look at California’s Triple Threat- that should include looking at the current loopholes being used by parasitic bureaucracies to skirt the spirit and the law of the Private Records Act

1 comment:

rosie said...

The fastest way to obtain access of Public Records is through the internet. This manner is more convenient than going to several government agencies to file a request for a public record. You don't have to wait long hours in order to have a copy of the record you need.