So as you may have heard, the City Council has been considering renaming the Sunshine Ordinance after Sanjiv Handa. It appeared to have sufficient votes to pass the final reading last night, until Pat Kernighan suddenly changed her vote from aye to nay, tying the matter and requiring the vote of Jean Quan, who wasn't present, so it will have to wait until the next meeting....
In any event, changing the name of the Sunshine Ordinance will do nothing to the City's actual compliance with the law, other than heighten the irony, since the City never paid any attention to Sanjiv in the first place. Oakland's ongoing violations of the Public Records Act and its own Sunshine Ordinance will continue unabated, particulary given that the toothless Public Ethics Commission is all but dead now. Although the City hired a replacement for Dan Purnell (who was no prize) in December, she lasted less than a month, after it was decided to include overseeing the Citizens Police Review Board along with her PEC duties. Although that would have overloaded even a normal person, the final straw was when a bunch of FTP types decided she had to go, since she was a former police officer. Their twisted logic was that because of her background, she couldn't possibly be fair in overseeing citizen complaints of police misconduct. Huh? That's about as logical as saying that former drug users shouldn't be drug counselors.
But I digress. On the subject of public records, I made a request on February 22 for documents related to the redeployment of Measure Y funded PSOs to service Mayor Quan's "100 Block" initiative. As you may have heard, this plan has generated quite a bit of heat in the community, as well as publicity. http://local.nixle.com/alert/4794732/
Needless to say, I got no response within the mandatory 10 days outlining which documents would be produced, or when I could expect them. I sent my usual follow-up emails, made my usual follow-up phone calls, and weeks passed. Finally, out of frustration, I called Deputy Chief Breshears a couple of days ago and asked for the status of my request from OPD, and some records were provided the next day. But it was a paltry amount, and none of them even mentioned the "100 Blocks" Initiative, and none were even from 2012! So I sent a follow-up email to DC Breshears indicating that either the "100 Block" Initiative didn't really exist, or else I hadn't gotten close to all of the documents. He responded that he had withheld some documents because they were "tactical" in nature. Notably, "tactical" is not an official exemption to the California Public Records Act. Moreover, if the City intended to shield any documents from disclosure, it was required to notify me of that much earlier, and specify a specific provision of the Act that made the documents exempt. No citations were provided.
So today I followed up by contacting the City Attorney's office, and spoke to Doryanna Moreno. Now, I should mention that previously, Mark Morodomi was in charge of the City's "Open Government" program. No longer, and I don't know why. Maybe it has something to do with his latest quote to the Bay Citizen that spending Measure Y funds on Carribbean cruises might violate the law? http://www.baycitizen.org/policing/story/nearly-half-oakland-community-policing/
I had had numerous conversations with Mr. Morodomi over the years about the City's abysmal compliance with public records requests, and offered numerous suggestions on how to improve compliance. At least he pretended to listen politely, but never did anything. Ms. Moreno, on the other hand, didn't listen politely. She listened, but pretty much said "uh huh," to everything I said, offered no apologies, and said nothing about what she intended to do to rectify the problems. Her only defense was that they were all very busy and understaffed. I told her that was no defense to clear legal violations. From a customer service perspective, she sucked. I had to force her to admit that the response was not handled well, and I had to demand to know what she was going to do to make things right. She was noncommittal. You'd think that knowing I'd already sued the City for over 30 previous violations of the PRA might make her a bit more responsive and interested in avoiding another lawsuiit. Perhaps this lack of legal compliance, lack of people skills, and lack of proactivity might explain why the city has to pay a gazillion dollars every year in loser cases. http://www.insidebayarea.com/news/ci_20226278/oakland-strip-search-payouts-top-1-million
I consider the City Attorney's office to have responsibility for overseeing compliance with the Public Records Act and the City's Sunshine Ordinance. I see it as their responsibiltiy to ensure that departments are properly trained and that protocols are in place for preparing responses, complying with timelines, and other requirements. The buck should stop with them, not with individual department heads, who no doubt have plenty of responsibility as well. Because the bottom line is that if the departments don't comply, the City Attorney's office will wind up having to defend the actions in litigation, and its much easier to ensure compliance than it is to defend these kinds of lawsuits. Given that the current City Attorney, Barbara Parker, is up for reelection, I would hope she reads this, gets the message, and picks up her game.
Realistically, however, I'm more likely to get the Sanjiv treatment....