Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Assembly bill would enforce compliance with Public Records Act

Naked Capitalism:
[...] the PRA is an important law intended to provide for transparency and accountability. Our limited experience shows that California government bodies routinely thwart the statute.

We learned yesterday from the general counsel of the California Newspaper Publishers Association that State Assemblyman Rob Bonta is sponsoring a bill, AB 1479, set to be heard next Tuesday, April 25 in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. It is designed to bar obstructions and unreasonable delays to responding to PRA requests.


I know this is last minute, but if you are in California and can send in a short note, it would be extremely helpful. Please stress that the citizens a right to have access to public records and that you are distressed to see how regularly government agencies waste taxpayer dollars and thwart transparency by denying, delaying, and/or making incomplete responses to Public Records Act requests.
The City of Encinitas has its own history of public records obstructionism, most notably repeatedly fighting in court to deny the public access to a public road conditions report.


  1. I've had public records requests in Encinitas ignored or delayed, and I've gotten, 'Sorry, we don't have those records' claims.

  2. A big weakness in the current CPRA is that the public agency is not required to compile the information you request if it does not already existed in a compiled form.

    For instance, you may ask for all documents related to a certain type of expense. The public agency could very easily, in seconds, generate a report from their accounting system with all the expenses you need. But they are not required to do that. They are just required to produce what already exists, so you get volumes and volumes of documents to pour through. It is like trying to find a needle in a haystack sometimes. Given the automated nature of a public agency's finances and accounting, they should be required to generate reports.

    1. My take on this bill is that it doesn't address your problem. I agree it is a problem. If it's easy to compile, it should be done. If it's not easy, then I think it's fair for the public agency to avoid pouring in hours of time to do your work for you. Where possible, they should provide the data you seek in digital form with some structure (comma delimited, spreadsheet), so so can efficiently write scripts to automate the structuring of the target data (or pay someone to do it).

      The challenge is defining in law the definition of "hard." Maybe it's 20 minutes of FTE time per PRA request?

    2. 20 minutes to fill a PRA? jyea. Go ask Clerk how much time is sucked into these things.

  3. 1:32- Excellent point. Many times when I have asked for all information in a CPRA request I get 50 pages of stuff and half of it is redacted. I understand redacting names of the individuals if it is a lawsuit, but redacting what a Council member or our city attorney said doesn't seem to meet the CPRA requirements. Happy that this is in place.

  4. That dept. has operated in a fashion that produces large expensive reports whose real intention is to bury the real facts that show how compromised the Planning Dept. has been and still is.

    The same logic, apparently goes for CPRA requests. That we pay them for such performance is criminal. Maybe not literally, but figuratively so.

  5. To whom should we write an e-mail supporting more transparency, supporting the bill?

  6. Take your choice.

    City manager, city council, planning dept., planning commission, engineering, public traffic and safety commission.

    They all need to hear from us.

    Send your concerns to all of them.

    Hearing from their constituents is the only way they will listen to us over the clamor from the ingrained despoilers.

    Thank you for your concern. Please do whatever you can to let the city know you want more than we have been getting from them all.