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Council president Todd Gloria may have to turn over city-related text messages and emails from his private email account after all.

In a March 14 tentative ruling, superior-court judge Joel Wohlfeil ordered Gloria to begin compiling any text messages he sent during council hearings as well as any emails from his private account that contain discussions related to city business. He may be forced to turn over those messages if the judge rules they are a matter of public record and should be open for inspection.

"In view of the potential for Plaintiff obtaining the current discovery from Mr. Gloria, the Court directs the [city] and Mr. Gloria to search for and assemble the subpoenaed records and preserve them in their current condition until further order of the Court. If (and again the Court emphasizes if) the Court ultimately agrees with Plaintiff on the threshold legal issue, and upon renewed request from Plaintiff, the Court will re-visit this analysis and, if persuaded by Plaintiff, expects the CITY and Mr. Gloria to be prepared to produce the subpoenaed records to Plaintiff without undue delay."

The tentative ruling is seen as a potential victory for open-government advocates who worry that more and more public officials are hiding their tracks through the use of their private electronic devices.

The ruling is part of a case brought forward by Cory Briggs, attorney for San Diegans for Open Government, amid allegations that Gloria was communicating with applicants and other members of the public during hearings.

Wohlfeil's decision effectively ends the city's attempt at quashing the case. In his ruling, however, Wohlfeil was careful to show that he has not fully committed to the public-records pursuit.

"We are in a world of social media and mobile devices," reads the March 14 ruling. "People are constantly connected. In the legal field, we have had to deal with electronic communications in discovery, how to deal with confidentiality on social media, and how to keep privileged material secure on mobile devices. In the public records world, we are now dealing with what to do when government officials are using private devices and accounts for official business."

Continued the judge: "If (and the Court emphasizes if) the Court ultimately agrees with Plaintiff on the threshold legal issue, it is entirely possible that the balance of the Court's analysis will tip in favor of Plaintiff's need for the current discovery outweighing Mr. Gloria's privacy interests."

The ruling comes days after a California appellate court heard opening arguments on whether the mayor of San Jose broke the law by texting and emailing project proponents.

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Comments

Burwell March 18, 2014 @ 6:49 p.m.

This appears to be a tremendous victory for Gloria. The judge should have ordered Gloria's private internet service provider to turn over all of Gloria's emails and text messages to a special master. The special master would go through 100% of the messages and identify those covered by Briggs' request. As it stands now, Gloria is on the honor system as to what messages he ultimately provides. He could fail to provide hundreds of messages and if caught, merely say he made a mistake or relied on a staff member who tripped up.

2

monaghan March 19, 2014 @ 12:10 p.m.

I am sorry to read this interpretation of the judge's order, but I am not surprised. Todd Gloria is as slippery as they come and at this moment is likely deleting incriminating text messages and voicemails from his personal devices. Not only this, but Gloria will go on to hold a seat in Congress when his old boss Rep. Susan Davis steps down. It's depressing, but it is business as usual in SeaWorld San Diego.

1

CaptD March 19, 2014 @ 2:26 p.m.

Yet more sorta, kinda, shoulda In-$ane San Diego Politics.

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FreedomPlease March 19, 2014 @ 10:27 p.m.

Same old game, just new players. Judge (elected by small minority of voting public) let the council reps (again many times voted in by minority of voting public, especially during special elections like we recently had and will have again soon!). We, the people, of San Diego: taxpayers, constituents, voters, and citizens, are being abused again, how is this new??!!! Let's just see what happens w/ SDG&E gas rate go up, SoCal Edison screw us out of Nuclear plant shut down funds, and if we will even have 3 minutes to speak at council meeting(s) [2 mtg,s we get one chance to speak]. It really doesn't matter it is only OUR money~we the people (screwed), no longer believe in this sucky government and it's continued abuse by two majority parties that dictate what happens in non-partisan elections, positions and paid governmental staff! Keep Pray, because that is the only One that is listening. daniel beeman~human FreedomPleaseOrg

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corybriggs March 20, 2014 @ 3:52 p.m.

The judge deserves credit. My briefs did not make the point in a way that he could easily understand at first. But he heard me out in court, and went back and re-read everything. His ruling was quite reasonable because it protects the records until our trial, which is set for June. We should not fault the judge for going the extra mile to get it right. CJB

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