Anchor ads are not supported on this page.

4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Still, fewer pages than Hillary

Judge orders Goldsmith to turn over thousands of emails

Making the distinction between personal and public emails has been difficult for San Diego city attorney Jan Goldsmith. In recent years Goldsmith has admitted to his use of private email accounts to conduct city business. The practice of using private emails to discuss city matters resulted in a lawsuit from watchdog group San Diegans for Open Government and its attorney Cory Briggs.

A newly released court transcript from that case shows Goldsmith relied on his private email account far more than he and his attorneys have let on. Earlier this month, judge Joel Wohlfeil ordered the city to turn over 25,000 pages of emails that Goldsmith sent on his Yahoo! account, a far cry from the 962 emails that the city has so far released.

In recent depositions, Goldsmith testified that he had a "practice of emailing, from the city email system, reading material to my personal email account for later review...comparable to bringing home copies of reading materials, but saving copying costs."

In that same December 2014 deposition, Goldsmith attested that he made sure he included his work email address so the communications would be documented. That doesn't appear to be the case.

According to a February 19 court transcript obtained by the Reader, since taking office, Goldsmith has written thousands of emails on public policy during and after work hours on his private account to his colleagues on the League of California Cities.

Sponsored
Sponsored

The league is comprised of elected officials from cities and counties throughout the state. City attorneys from throughout the state are also members of the club. The attorneys discuss and advocate for city and county policies such as medical marijuana enforcement, the wind-down of redevelopment agencies, and vacation rentals, among other topics.

Over the years, Goldsmith has fallen in line with the recommendations from the league; namely, in opposition to the proliferation of both recreational and medicinal use of marijuana as well as the tight controls that the state has imposed on the use of revenues from the former redevelopment tax. In both cases, Goldsmith has devoted an abundance of city resources in an attempt to shape city policy.

Attorneys for Goldsmith have tried to keep the related emails from seeing the light of day. They argue that emails between members of the League of California Cities should be considered privileged because they discuss legal issues that cities face. According to deputy city attorneys handling the case, even if "the emails do pertain to city business, they're privileged." Attorney Briggs doesn't see it that way.

While addressing judge Joel Wohlfeil during a February 19 court hearing, Briggs said that if the emails are privileged, the city should be required to state exactly why they are privileged and redact the information that is off-limits while releasing the remainder.

Briggs also argues that the city attorney's only client, according to Charter Section 40, is the City of San Diego. In other words, the city attorney can't claim attorney-client privilege when discussing city business with the League of California Cities because the league is not Goldsmith's client.

"There's not even an offer to do the redactions," Briggs said during the hearing. "We're not interested in knowing who the other members of the League are. Never mind that it's the League of California Cities, so they're public agencies. City Attorney of San Diego is a permanent member of the League's legal advisory committee. Charter Section 40 makes the City Attorney of San Diego the City Attorney for San Diego. If the City Attorney of San Diego is having conversations with people who aren't the lawyers for the City of San Diego, by definition, that can't be attorney-client privilege. By definition, it can't be attorney work product privilege. He's having a conversation, at best, with colleagues. That's not privileged."

Aside from saying the emails are private, deputy city attorney Catherine Richardson says compiling the 25,000 pages is a daunting task.

"...[W]e are not talking about five or ten, 50, even a thousand emails," Richardson said during oral argument. "We're talking about 25,000 pages of e-mails…. Well, it would be 50 binders of e-mails. And that was not something that I wanted to inflict on the Court. So I do have a CD. But the point of all that is, we're not talking about a few e-mails. We're talking about a lot of e-mails. And the bulk of those e-mails are these League of California Cities e-mails. And for us to have to go through all of those e-mails and redact them or review them again to decide — to see whether in what portions of them should be produced or not produced, that would be a burden that would be so out of proportion to any value or public interest that there would be in those documents….”

In the end, however, judge Wohlfeil disagreed that the emails are privileged; on the contrary, the city attorney has the burden to show exactly why they are privileged.

"However, confidential does not mean that it's privileged and the participants can, upon a proper request, claim a privilege and refuse to disclose it…. I’m not at all convinced that that is a basis to withhold materials that were exchanged between the participants of the League, at least not upon a proper request, as appears to have been done in this case."

Now, the city attorney's office has 45 days to produce the emails, with proper exemptions. In the meantime, the city attorney's office, according to the transcript, says they plan to file a motion for sanctions against Briggs. A previous attempt was dismissed.

To read more stories on City Attorney's private email dilemma, read the July 14, 2014, September 15, 2014, January 27, 2015, stories.

The latest copy of the Reader

Please enjoy this clickable Reader flipbook. Linked text and ads are flash-highlighted in blue for your convenience. To enhance your viewing, please open full screen mode by clicking the icon on the far right of the black flipbook toolbar.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

The Mental Bar brightens the neighborhood with lattes

Encanto coffee shop serves caffeinated beverages with a side of wellness
Next Article

Sandollar, Courtly Noyse, Shelbi Bennett, Jewel, and Punk Rock Chili Dog Social

Folk, world, punk, rock, and reggae in Ocean Beach, City Heights, Carlsbad, Little Italy, downtown

Making the distinction between personal and public emails has been difficult for San Diego city attorney Jan Goldsmith. In recent years Goldsmith has admitted to his use of private email accounts to conduct city business. The practice of using private emails to discuss city matters resulted in a lawsuit from watchdog group San Diegans for Open Government and its attorney Cory Briggs.

A newly released court transcript from that case shows Goldsmith relied on his private email account far more than he and his attorneys have let on. Earlier this month, judge Joel Wohlfeil ordered the city to turn over 25,000 pages of emails that Goldsmith sent on his Yahoo! account, a far cry from the 962 emails that the city has so far released.

In recent depositions, Goldsmith testified that he had a "practice of emailing, from the city email system, reading material to my personal email account for later review...comparable to bringing home copies of reading materials, but saving copying costs."

In that same December 2014 deposition, Goldsmith attested that he made sure he included his work email address so the communications would be documented. That doesn't appear to be the case.

According to a February 19 court transcript obtained by the Reader, since taking office, Goldsmith has written thousands of emails on public policy during and after work hours on his private account to his colleagues on the League of California Cities.

Sponsored
Sponsored

The league is comprised of elected officials from cities and counties throughout the state. City attorneys from throughout the state are also members of the club. The attorneys discuss and advocate for city and county policies such as medical marijuana enforcement, the wind-down of redevelopment agencies, and vacation rentals, among other topics.

Over the years, Goldsmith has fallen in line with the recommendations from the league; namely, in opposition to the proliferation of both recreational and medicinal use of marijuana as well as the tight controls that the state has imposed on the use of revenues from the former redevelopment tax. In both cases, Goldsmith has devoted an abundance of city resources in an attempt to shape city policy.

Attorneys for Goldsmith have tried to keep the related emails from seeing the light of day. They argue that emails between members of the League of California Cities should be considered privileged because they discuss legal issues that cities face. According to deputy city attorneys handling the case, even if "the emails do pertain to city business, they're privileged." Attorney Briggs doesn't see it that way.

While addressing judge Joel Wohlfeil during a February 19 court hearing, Briggs said that if the emails are privileged, the city should be required to state exactly why they are privileged and redact the information that is off-limits while releasing the remainder.

Briggs also argues that the city attorney's only client, according to Charter Section 40, is the City of San Diego. In other words, the city attorney can't claim attorney-client privilege when discussing city business with the League of California Cities because the league is not Goldsmith's client.

"There's not even an offer to do the redactions," Briggs said during the hearing. "We're not interested in knowing who the other members of the League are. Never mind that it's the League of California Cities, so they're public agencies. City Attorney of San Diego is a permanent member of the League's legal advisory committee. Charter Section 40 makes the City Attorney of San Diego the City Attorney for San Diego. If the City Attorney of San Diego is having conversations with people who aren't the lawyers for the City of San Diego, by definition, that can't be attorney-client privilege. By definition, it can't be attorney work product privilege. He's having a conversation, at best, with colleagues. That's not privileged."

Aside from saying the emails are private, deputy city attorney Catherine Richardson says compiling the 25,000 pages is a daunting task.

"...[W]e are not talking about five or ten, 50, even a thousand emails," Richardson said during oral argument. "We're talking about 25,000 pages of e-mails…. Well, it would be 50 binders of e-mails. And that was not something that I wanted to inflict on the Court. So I do have a CD. But the point of all that is, we're not talking about a few e-mails. We're talking about a lot of e-mails. And the bulk of those e-mails are these League of California Cities e-mails. And for us to have to go through all of those e-mails and redact them or review them again to decide — to see whether in what portions of them should be produced or not produced, that would be a burden that would be so out of proportion to any value or public interest that there would be in those documents….”

In the end, however, judge Wohlfeil disagreed that the emails are privileged; on the contrary, the city attorney has the burden to show exactly why they are privileged.

"However, confidential does not mean that it's privileged and the participants can, upon a proper request, claim a privilege and refuse to disclose it…. I’m not at all convinced that that is a basis to withhold materials that were exchanged between the participants of the League, at least not upon a proper request, as appears to have been done in this case."

Now, the city attorney's office has 45 days to produce the emails, with proper exemptions. In the meantime, the city attorney's office, according to the transcript, says they plan to file a motion for sanctions against Briggs. A previous attempt was dismissed.

To read more stories on City Attorney's private email dilemma, read the July 14, 2014, September 15, 2014, January 27, 2015, stories.

Comments
Sponsored

The latest copy of the Reader

Please enjoy this clickable Reader flipbook. Linked text and ads are flash-highlighted in blue for your convenience. To enhance your viewing, please open full screen mode by clicking the icon on the far right of the black flipbook toolbar.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Thunderheads to the east, add native bulbs to your garden

July is our driest month
Next Article

Basketry Workshop, Hulu’s Animayhem Factory

Events July 27-July 31, 2024
Comments
Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox Movies@Home — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close

Anchor ads are not supported on this page.

This Week’s Reader This Week’s Reader