Jeff Smith noon, March 8
New lawsuit challenges Todd Gloria's pledge to open government
San Diegans for Open Government want the Council President to turn over all emails and text messages from his personal device that pertain to City business
Just how transparent is Council President Todd Gloria? Not very, according to city watchdog group San Diegans for Open Government.
On May 16, the group filed a lawsuit against the City after the Council President failed to respond to a May 2 and May 3 request for public records. The two requests came days after Briggs had filed his initial request.
It was then that attorney for San Diegans for Open Government Cory Briggs requested to see any and all communications, that's including emails and text messages from his personal cell phone, that pertains to any and all agenda items heard since January 7 of this year.
Briggs and his group want to make sure that Gloria is not relaying information via text messages to interested parties in the audience during council meetings.
In recent years, with the emergence of smartphones and other gadgets, the question of whether text messages or emails sent from personal devices are subject to the Public Records Act.
That question was answered in a March 19 ruling from a judge in Santa Clara County. The case was filed after San Jose's City Attorney refused to turn over emails or text messages from elected officials that were stored outside the City's server.
Judge James Kleinberg ruled against the City, saying that any communications pertaining to city business, regardless of where they are produced or where they are stored, fall under the Public Records Act.
Briggs is now demanding that San Diego's council leader do the same.
[San Diegans for Open Government] and on that basis alleges that an actual controversy exists between [San Diegans for Open Government], on the one hand, and City, on the other hand, concerning their respective rights and duties under the Act. As alleged in this pleading, [San Diegans for Open Government] contends that the public records responsive to [their] May 3 Public Records Act request are not exempt from disclosure under the Act and that City is required by law to produce them," reads the lawsuit.
Briggs says Gloria now has an opportunity to show just how transparent he is.
"He claims to be the paradigm of transparency but refuses to disclose his communications on official public business, so he forced San Diegans for Open Government to seek a court order directing him to make the disclosures. San Diegans for Open Government is not asking for every communication he has ever had, just those pertaining to the important items he votes on during public meetings. Nobody should be allowed to use technology to evade public disclosure."
However, in a response shortly after this article was posted, Gloria's chief of staff Katie Keach sent a response that was sent to Briggs on May 14. It stated, in part, that the request was too broad and would be too burdensome to try and identify the qualifying records.
"Your requests have asked for virtually "each and every" communication to and from this office concerning more than a few items heard by the City Council in every regularly scheduled Council meeting it held during the first four months of 2013. Per the City Attorney's advice, my staff previously asked that you narrow your request. Your new letters do not do so. Rather, it appears that you have only split the same requests into more categories, using one question for each meeting date instead of grouping them. Unfortunately, the new requests do not help us identify the records you seek."
Gloria then suggested that Briggs narrow his request even further.
The request, no matter how broad, does not mean the issue will be resolved without the turning over of documents or a long legal battle as it is nearly identical to the one filed by the Plaintiff in San Jose.
Click the link below to read the complaint from San Diegans for Open Government:
On April 22, former staff-writer for San Diego CityBeat Dave Maass wrote on his attempt at accessing Mayor Bob Filner's campaign email account as well as the San Jose case. Here's a link to his article:
This from Todd Gloria's Office:
More like this:
- City attorney Goldsmith fights to keep his emails private — March 7, 2014
- More caution against city plan to purge emails — March 3, 2014
- City attorney sued regarding private emails — Jan. 29, 2014
- City Attorney Jan Goldsmith slapped with lawsuit for refusing to disclose public records — Aug. 6, 2013
- Council President Todd Gloria's Office says no vote was taken to release closed-session transcripts — July 3, 2013