Jan Goldsmith and Todd Gloria
Tomorrow, San Diego city councilmembers could put an end to the long and expensive legal fight over emails and text messages that councilmember Todd Gloria sent from the council dais between January 1, 2013, and April 24 of 2013.
On January 4, 2015, attorney for San Diegans for Open Government Cory Briggs offered to drop the lawsuit and place a cap on attorneys’ fees.
"Defendant's response to Plaintiff's request was unlawful because Defendant did not produce all public records in its possession, custody, or control that were responsive to Plaintiff’s request within the time period prescribed by law. However, Defendant did have such records within its possession, custody, or control at the time Plaintiff’s request was delivered to Defendant. The communications reflected in the responsive records relate to the conduct of the public’s business and thus make them 'public records' under the California Public Records Act."
All Gloria and city attorney's office has to do is admit that it violated California's Public Records Act by refusing to turn over the documents. The city has little to lose, other than additional costs. Gloria has already turned over 1680 emails — texts weren't as easy to recover.
"My client is willing to settle this lawsuit and avoid the fees/cost associated with further litigating the merits in exchange for the execution of the attached documents," reads the January 4 offer obtained by the Reader. "Since I was told previously that this aspect of the prior settlement offer was approved by the city council, I cannot imagine why there would be a rejection now. In any event, the offer is on the table until the close of business on January 20, 2015, and will automatically expire if the attached documents are not signed and returned to my office by that deadline."
The city council meets tomorrow, January 20, in closed session. On their agenda is the following synopsis:
"This case arises from San Diegans for Open Government’s demand to inspect and then obtain copies of email, text message, and voice mail communication between Council President Todd Gloria and his staff with any other person (regardless of the number of authors or recipients in the communication, but excluding communications strictly between Gloria and his staff), concerning items that appeared on any City Council agenda between January 1, 2013, and April 24, 2013. Representatives from the City Attorney’s Office will update the Mayor and City Council on the status of the litigation and seek direction."
The council has had several opportunities to settle the case.
In August 2014, Briggs offered Gloria and city attorney Jan Goldsmith, who is named in a similar lawsuit, to drop the case. Gloria and Goldsmith would have been required to admit they erred in withholding the emails, the city would have had to pay $100,000 in legal fees, and the council would have had to agree to update the municipal code to include emails on personal devices such as smartphones and tablets. Also, Briggs asked that Goldsmith officially retract statements he made to the U-T.
The council rejected the offer. Legal fees in both cases have increased. Last year, Goldsmith, with council approval, hired outside counsel to defend him.
The city council is expected to hear the item tomorrow, January 20 at 9 a.m.