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City Attorney Jan Goldsmith slapped with lawsuit for refusing to disclose public records
Goldsmith has so far refused to turn over closed session transcripts where Filner is said to have ordered attorney to the back of the room. Cites cost of preparation as reason for not disclosing.
The City Attorney's Office and attorney Cory Briggs are digging in their heels in a battle for transcripts from closed session meetings. Despite his attempt to fight it, City Attorney Jan Goldsmith might have to cede some ground, or be forced to defend his position in court.
On August 5, Briggs, on behalf of San Diegans for Open Government, filed an amended legal complaint in for un-redacted transcripts from a June 18 closed session meeting where Mayor Bob Filner ordered a Detective to escort Assistant City Attorney Andrew Jones from the room.
The amended complaint also seeks transcripts from a closed session meeting that took place in late March or early April. During the meeting, Jones claimed that Mayor Filner ordered him to the back of the room. The Assistant City Attorney then went public with the story, telling reporters about the closed-session conflict, comparing himself to Rosa Parks.
But since speaking to the UT San Diego, Jones and the City Attorney's Office have been anything but open about the incident and have refused to turn over transcripts to Briggs or to members of the press.
Their grounds for refusal: no actual transcripts exist because they have not asked the reporter to translate them from shorthand.
Goldsmith argues that the Municipal Code Section 8.4, which states that "all closed sessions shall be transcribed by a court certified reporter" and "shall be retained," does not mention that all meetings should be translated to English.
One reason for not preparing transcripts: the extra cost.
"There is no transcript," Goldsmith spokesperson Michael Giorgino wrote in an August 2 email. "A court reporter attends every closed session, but no transcript is made as that is an extra expense."
The extra expense, however, is a drop in the bucket, actually more like a water molecule in the City Attorney's bucket. According to an invoice obtained through a public records request, the extra expense to prepare and deliver a certified copy is $125.78. That means an entire year's worth of transcripts, averaging two meetings per month, would set the City Attorney's Office back approximately $3,000 a year or .006 percent of Goldsmith's $43.6 million budget.
So how did the June 18 meeting, the one where Jones was escorted from the room, come about? Goldsmith said he authorized to pay the extra cash because he was not present at the meeting.
"The one transcript made was at the request of the City Attorney because he was not present and learned that his second in command attorney was arrested and removed from the meeting," wrote spokesperson Michael Giorgino in an August 2 email.
Goldsmith confirmed that in an August 3 comment on Twitter, "[court reporter] takes notes on machine. Transcripts from notes cost more. Rarely prepared. No [transcript] to release."
In his complaint, Briggs states he was told similar by Deputy City Attorney Ray Palmucci during an August 2 phone call.
"Our office doesn't pay to have [closed session meetings] transcribed and doesn't get the [court] reporter's record. She keeps it," reads the lawsuit.
As mentioned in a previous article, another reason the City Attorney wanted the June 18 transcript prepared was for a potential lawsuit against the Mayor.
Sometime after the June 18 meeting, Andrew Jones provided an unsigned and undated court statement detailing the events of the two closed session meetings. The case was listed as "Jan L. Goldsmith, in his official capacity as City Attorney for the City of San Diego vs. Bob Filner, in his official capacity as Mayor for the City of San Diego."
In the complaint, Briggs mentioned the declaration.
"The reason the Jones Declaration provided to the San Diego Reader was unsigned is that Mr. Jones and the Office of the City Attorney are not opposed to lying to the public about an incident that in fact did not happen...but they are not willing to commit perjury and thereby face the risk of losing their licenses to practice law and the risk of criminal prosecution."
Read the entire complaint here: http://www.briggslawcorp.com/Site/files_User/1375808370690.pdf
More like this:
- Judge to Goldsmith: Turn 'em over — Oct. 9, 2014
- Goldsmith to argue against his own legal opinion — Aug. 29, 2014
- Jan Goldsmith's Office refuses to release transcripts of closed session meetings — Aug. 2, 2013
- Council President Todd Gloria's Office says no vote was taken to release closed-session transcripts — July 3, 2013
- Lawsuit coming over City Attorney's refusal to release complete record of Filner and Jones exchange — July 2, 2013