Breeden calls records requests ‘ridiculous’

Mayor: ‘Nobody has a right to go through my business’s email’

Breeden calls records requests ‘ridiculous’By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

During the last few minutes of the May 31 budget hearing, council discussed an uptick in spending on actions relating to local California Public Records Act requests – a practice that Mayor Peggy Breeden called out as unwarranted.

Breeden’s primary frustration appeared to stem from a recent change in the CPRA following a precedent-setting legal battle in San Jose, where the state courts ruled that all government business, even if conducted through private mediums such as personal cell phones, home computers or non-government email servers, was subject to the CPRA.

“Nobody has a right to go through my Swap Sheet email,” said Breeden, referencing her local business.

“It’s alarming for everybody,” echoed Councilmember Wallace Martin.

City Attorney Keith Lemieux confirmed with the News Review that the ruling has no affect on the nature of information that can be requested through the records act. It just no longer limits those sources of information to records “under the city’s control,” such as government-owned devices or email servers managed by the city.

Breeden asked staff if the city needed to set aside money in the budget for public records requests.

“Last year we had significant staff and legal expenses based on [public records requests],” she said. “Do we have anything in our budget so we’re not blindly hit with something like that again?”

She said former City Clerk Rachel Ford spent more than a week and some 60 hours of staff time gathering emails for public records requests regarding the city’s dealings with the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe and casino developers after questions had been raised about the ethics of the city’s dealings on that issue.

Breeden said her personal and business emails were “nobody’s business” and that incurring staff time and cost to the city should be avoided.

“Well you can’t just not [comply], so I don’t understand what we can do,” said Councilmember Lindsey Stephens.

When current clerk Ricca Charlon said there had been three more requests this year, Breeden said it was ridiculous.

“How is it ridiculous?” asked Stephens. “We’re supposed to be open and transparent. People have a right to request information. That’s why the law is there.”

Finance Director Tyrell Staheli said the best that staff could do is track the previous requests in an attempt to project future costs.

Story First Published: 2017-06-09