Ken Leighton 2:48 p.m., Aug. 20
Lawsuit coming over City Attorney's refusal to release complete record of Filner and Jones exchange
City Attorney says closed session transcripts may not be released without city council authority. That begs the question: Did the City Council vote to release those transcripts to the press on June 20?
It took the City Attorney less than two days to give the press carefully redacted notes from the closed-session meeting where Mayor Bob Filner booted Deputy City Attorney Andrew Jones for disrupting the meeting.
Nearly two weeks later, Goldsmith is refusing to release the entire exchange between Jones and Filner as well as the comments made by councilmembers who were present at the time.
On June 28, Deputy City Attorney Ray Palmucci informed attorney Cory Briggs that the complete record of the exchange will not be released. "Under the Brown Act, confidential information from a closed session [meeting]...may not be disclosed to a person not entitled to receive it, unless the legislative body authorizes disclosure of the that confidential information. Thus, no further disclosable public documents exist."
Goldsmith may now have to defend his decision in court. Briggs says he plans to file a lawsuit against San Diego's top attorney for violating the Brown Act.
"The city attorney's amateurish response will not stand in court," wrote Briggs in a July 1 email.
"Anyone who reads the Brown Act can see that it does not "authorize" closed-session political pissing matches. Even if the pissing match between Filner and Jones was "authorized" for closed session, it would have been illegal to release any portion of the transcript. So either the unredacted transcript should be released, or the city attorney should be prosecuted for the crime he committed when he released the redacted transcript to the press."
The inevitable court battle over the un-redacted transcripts might be a hard fight for Goldsmith. In 2005, in the case of County of Los Angeles v. Superior Court (Union of American Physicians and Dentists) (2005)130 Cal.App.4th 1099 , 30 Cal.Rptr.3d 708, the court ruled that "the law makes all of the minutes from a closed meeting privileged. If, indeed, portions of a closed meeting were improperly closed, then it seems to me that minutes dealing with those aspects are not protected under that and should be disclosed."
The transcripts from the June 18 meeting, given to 10News on June 20, drew wide media coverage and was used as ammo by some Filner critics (read: UT San Diego's editorial staff) to label him a "bully."
And now, to compound the issue, Goldsmith has announced that he will be suspending closed-session meetings until Mayor Filner promises to behave and not harass his attorneys.
Goldsmith's announcement coupled with his refusal to provide the full transcript from the June 18 exchange rounds out a rough week for the City Attorney.
Goldsmith made national headlines this week for his, rather his office's, decision to prosecute a man for writing anti-big bank messages in chalk on the public sidewalks.
One prominent and popular political website, Daily Kos, went so far as to use this headline when announcing the jury's decision to acquit the man on all thirteen charges.
To make matters worse for Goldsmith there is now a "Recall Jan Goldsmith" Facebook Page. So far, the page has 276 likes.
I too am awaiting to hear back on a Public Records Request for the unedited exchange from the closed session meeting as well as the request from 10News for the transcripts. In addition, I am waiting to hear back from Council President Todd Gloria as to whether he and other councilmembers agreed to release the transcripts to the press.