Month: June 2008

Public Forum Law Week in Review: 6/30/08

Open Government Columnist: California Lagging in OpennessThomas Peele, writing in the Contra Costa Times, compares Florida’s and other states’ transparency leadership with the lack thereof in California, and the telling results.Public Information Ruling for Privilege Let Stand as PrecedentThe California Supreme Court has declined the request of Californians Aware and several other organizations to either take up for review or depublish (remove from case law as citable authority) an opinion of the Court of Appeal concluding that Proposition 59, the open government constitutional amendment enacted by voters in November 2004, did not eliminate a common law privilege insulating legislators from inquiry into their thought processes. Magistrate Limits Secrecy in Prison CasesThe Associated Press reports that a federal magistrate has rejected an attempt by the Schwarzenegger administration to keep certain documents secret as courts decide whether to cap California's prison population. In pretrial motions, the administration sought to prohibit public disclosure of certain documents, including records classified as sensitive communications or part of internal deliberations. City to Pay Fees in Successful Records SuitThe Redding Record-Searchlight reports that a Shasta County Superior Court judge has ruled that Redding must pay it $36,288 in attorney fees resulting from its successful lawsuit for records of a city hall personnel investigation. Eight employees were accused either of conducting multiple affairs during work hours on city property from early 2006 through mid-August, or exchanging excessive...

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Public Forum Law Week in Review: 6/20/08

Open Government Vote on Sunshine Panel Member SurprisesThe San Francisco Bay Guardian reports that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, by a 9-1 vote appointed to a vacancy on the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force a favorite of the Board chairman with little open government experience or interest, instead of its own Rules Committee’s recommended candidate, “an attorney with experience using the Sunshine Ordinance and who other task force members had looked forward to working with.” Board Twice Faulted for Sunshine ShortfallsAccording to reports in the Tri-Valley Herald in Pleasanton and the Stockton Record, respectively, trustees of San Joaquin Delta College have been separately faulted for disregard of the open meeting laws by a grand jury report suggesting that a leak by one or more trustees to a favored developer concerning pending litigation issues discussed in closed session was a violation of the Brown Act, and a preliminary accreditation report by a team from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. That document was said to include concern for ethics and open government lapses over the past seven years, including the recent extension of President Raul Rodriguez's contract though a series of illegal one-on-one meetings.  Rodriguez has refused to release the accreditation report. Watchdog: Housing Process Rebuffs PublicAn activist concerned with growth standards in Los Angeles laments, in CityWatchLA, the formidable barriers to effective citizen participation erected by city staff...

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Public Forum Law Week in Review: 6/16/08

Open Government Obama, McCain Introduce Spending Transparency BillThe Secrecy News blog reports that Senators Barack Obama, John McCain and two others have introduced legislation to provide several valuable advances to promote openness and access regarding federal contracting information, including several key upgrades to federal data processing: collecting a broader range of data about contract details, combining citizen access and government-based oversight, monitoring compliance with regulatory protections, and making a number of technical improvements. Garamendi Faults Closed Toll Road Meetings with Feds     The Earth Times reports that Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, citing serious concerns about the "extreme secrecy" surrounding the Orange County area’s Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA) nonpublic meetings with a federal interagency committee, has sent a strongly worded letter to Jane Luxton, general counsel at the Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration requesting a more open, public process.Comment: Stealth in Pay Bargaining Leads to GiveawaysWriting in the Contra Costa Times, Dan Borenstein says the secrecy surrounding approval of government employee contracts needs to end, as San Pablo city officials recently demonstrated when they quietly slipped last-minute changes into a pension sweetener for the city's police officers. Council Trio Forces Sunshine Ordinance onto AgendaThe Gilroy Dispatch reports that three of the seven members of the Gilroy City Council have instructed the city clerk to schedule a special meeting July 9 to address one of the trio’s proposed open...

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