Recent public records requests and code inquiries have lead to release of City documents that raise questions of special treatment of individuals on or associated with the City Council, Council dining charged to residents, possible improper use of Public Resources in advocacy for the Proposition 218 tax measure, and possible Brown Act violations in that advocacy or to cover-up the violation.
After a Site Plan of Mayor Stan Carroll's proposed home addition was made public (see plan), even after the City sent 9 letters (see pic) denying the existence of the project, a new protocol for handling records releases was immediately instituted.
The new delay policy alleges that the city is "besieged" with records requests, however several residents who have submitted requests state that their one request multiplies in City Request logs to many times that number leading to charges that the City is manufacturing the backlog to justify the crackdown.
A Records Request was made to see the new policy, but City Staff said another 14 days was needed to see if the document even existed. We legally obtained what appears to be that document through other means.
Titled as coming from City Manager Shauna Clark, the new policy forbids City staff from providing readily available records to citizens, but instead requires the citizen to fill out a request, which is sent to the back of the line. The citizen will then be contacted to come to City Hall for a supervised viewing of the document.
Several aspects of the new policy appear to conflict with the California Public Records Act, which requires prompt disclosure of documents and does not require the requester to identify themself.
The new protocol appears, in many cases, to take more staff time than just providing the citizen the requested document promptly.
The City Council is responsible for instituting policies which are then carried out by the City Manager.
Text of New Policy, identified as coming from City Manager Shauna Clark:
"Public Records Request - Importance of following protocol
Thursday July 26, 2012
It has come to my attention that some customers have been given documents on demand. Essentially, the staff member gives a public records request form to the person seeking the documents and then copies them on the spot and sends them to the counter to pay for the records.
Under other circumstances, I would be commending you for such prompt service but as we are being besieged with public records requests and currently have a backlog of requests for over 100 documents, I am directing you to follow a different protocol.
When a customer wants a copy of a record (even one that's readily available) require them to fill out the form and turn it in to the City Clerk. Their request will be placed on the bottom of the stack and will be fulfilled in the order received. Doing anything else is giving the appearance of favoritism. You can pull the documents and provide them to Grace immediately but Grace will still have to place the request in the order it was received.
You may not be aware, but people who want to look at files also need to fill in a public records request. The protocol is the same. The request is filed with the City Clerk goes on the stack. Grace will write back giving the applicant a time and place that the file will be made available for their review at the counter. They will be supervised as they go through the file.
The exceptions to the above that I can think of are: an emergency, records needed by another department or the city auditor, a subpoena for records, or an occasion when someone is at the counter processing their own planning case or building permit and needs documents from their own file. If you can think of another exception, let's discuss it.
I hope that in the near future we can return to instant service on public records requests, but until then, thank you for following the protocol. "