Corina Zaragoza 11:30 a.m., Sept. 1
Questions raised over City Attorney's decision to release transcripts of closed session meeting
Transcripts were given as a response to a public records request from only two days before.
Mayor Bob Filner said he wanted a more open, transparent city government. Having the City Attorney release transcripts of closed session meetings two days after the meeting transpired, however, was probably not be what he envisioned.
On Thursday, June 20, news swirled about an outburst from Filner during a June 18 closed session meeting. That day, behind closed doors, Filner reportedly booted Executive Assistant City Attorney Andrew Jones from the meeting. 10News posted a transcript of the closed session meeting provided to the media outlet by the City Attorney's Office.
The transcript, and the accompanying letter, is now raising some red flags for some Filner supporters about the City Attorney's role in the closed-door dustup.
According to the letter, the City Attorney's Office turned over the documents to 10News in response to a public records request submitted by the station. As any reporter, or anyone who has submitted a request for public documents, can attest, getting a response in less than two days is reason for celebration. Even more so when that response includes a nicely written background of the key players and a justification for release of the documents.
"In other words, what is confidential are only those discussion which concern docketed items that are properly placed on the closed session docket because they fit the limited exception due to their subject matter. Discussions that take place in a closed session meeting that do not concern such items are not considered 'confidential information' and may be subject to disclosure," reads the response from the City Attorney's Office to 10News.
In the City Attorney's statement, there appears to be some misinformation.
According to the letter, Andrew Jones, the attorney that Filner ejected from the meeting, is the number two attorney in the office "who oversees all civil litigation including discussion of litigation in closed session meetings."
That seems to contradict Jones' bio on the City Attorney's website which lists Jones as an Assistant City Attorney in the criminal, not civil, division. Assistant City Attorney Donald Worley took over the Civil Division from Jones in September 2009.
"Mr. Jones currently heads the Civil Litigation Division and will move to take over the reins at the Criminal Division," reads a press release from the City Attorney's Office. "During his tenure in the City Attorney’s Office, Mr. Jones has served as a lead criminal prosecutor, heading the Discovery Unit, and prosecuting abusers in domestic violence and child abuse cases. He has been instrumental in rebuilding the City Attorney’s office since the new administration took office in December 2008."
Jones is also listed as an Executive Assistant City Attorney on another page but that bio fails to mention whether he is a part of a single division.
Katheryn Rhodes, a Filner supporter and advocate for the homeless, says it doesn't make any sense for Jones to have been present at the closed door meeting other than to get a reaction from Filner.
"There was no reason for it," said Rhodes during a phone interview. "The June 18, 2013 closed session agenda linked below shows all five legal cases dealt with civil matters only, not Criminal."
Tension between Jones and Filner goes way back. Filner accused Jones of leaking details from a closed session meeting in April of this year. City Attorney Goldsmith says Filner fired back with adding Jones' position on the list of those slated to be cut in his plan to reduce the City Attorney's budget for next fiscal year.
I sent questions to the City Attorney's Office about the policy of releasing transcripts of closed door meetings as well as whether Jones has since moved from the Criminal Division. They failed to respond in time for publication.
More like this:
- Goldsmith to argue against his own legal opinion — Aug. 29, 2014
- City Attorney Jan Goldsmith slapped with lawsuit for refusing to disclose public records — Aug. 6, 2013
- Jan Goldsmith's Office refuses to release transcripts of closed session meetings — Aug. 2, 2013
- Both City Attorney Goldsmith and Mayor Filner release public records at whim (or not at all) — July 25, 2013
- Lawsuit coming over City Attorney's refusal to release complete record of Filner and Jones exchange — July 2, 2013