Union-Tribune investigative reporter Brooke Williams has asked the office of San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders to turn over documents it has in its files on a former U-T colleague. In a Public Records Act request filed on September 18 — the day the U-T announced that its B-1 columnist Gerry Braun had abruptly left the paper to become director of special projects for Sanders — Williams requested “Any and all correspondence between March 1, 2008 to September 21, 2008 among or between Gerry Braun and any and all current or former city employees that hold or held any and all positions in the Office of the Mayor. In this request, ‘correspondence,’ means any and all e-mails, letters, facsimiles, voice mail messages, instant messages, as well as handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, photocopying, words, pictures, sounds or symbols or combinations thereof, regardless of the manner in which the records are stored.”
A San Diego State University graduate and 23-year employee of the newspaper, Braun had a hot-and-cold relationship with some members of the paper’s management. For many years he served as the paper’s writing coach because of an inability to type on a keyboard due to carpal tunnel syndrome.
He eventually returned to print with a column that focused on, among other topics, politics and policy at city hall. Some observers speculated that Braun had spun his coverage to win favor with Sanders, but others saw him as a fair and honest reporter of the often-byzantine local political scene.
When Braun signed on with Sanders in his new $140,000-a-year job, the mayor’s office issued a statement saying he would be “working in a variety of capacities, essentially assisting and advising in framing of policy matters, including water conservation and reliability, disaster preparedness and anything else that requires public outreach.” Reached at his office at city hall, Braun said he was aware of the U-T request, but added that “I have no idea” why his former colleague had asked for the information. He said he had not been contacted by the newspaper, nor had he talked to Williams about the matter. In a telephone interview, Williams said the request was made as a matter of “due diligence,” in part to determine if there was any evidence Braun had been talking with the mayor’s office about his future appointment while still employed at the paper. She said that the documents turned over by the City did not show any such contact and that there was “no story” in the records.