Californians Aware has sued the City of Salinas for access to a planning calendar used by the city clerk to keep the city council apprised of items set for addition to coming meeting agendas. The action, filed in Monterey County Superior Court last Thursday, follows a local resident’s four-month effort, begun last October 15, to persuade City Clerk Patricia Barajas to allow inspection of the list of reports, discussion and action items awaiting assignment to future council agendas.
An example of how the document is used is shown in video excerpts from the November 19, 2013 and January 7, 2014 meetings in which a council member thanks Ms. Barajas for providing the council with “a calendar of upcoming agenda items, reports and so forth,” and a "2014 calendar . . . for future agenda items."
Deputy City Attorney Anais Aquino informed the resident on February 18 that “The entire document is a draft, exempted from disclosure.” When CalAware repeated the resident’s request, Ms. Aquino replied that “the document you seek, a list of unscheduled future agenda items, . . . is privileged and will not be disclosed pursuant to Government Code 6254(a) as a preliminary draft, note or memoranda.”
Case law limits that exemption to records not retained in the ordinary course of business, reflecting the author’s “recommendatory opinion” rather than factual information, and then only if the public interest in withholding the document outweighs the public interest in disclosure.