FREE PRESS -- Following a recent meeting with editors of the Antelope Valley Press, Randy
Hill, general manager of the Palmdale Water District, denounced the
newspaper for publishing an internal memo he circulated that alluded to the district's financial woes.  Then, the Valley Press reports, he went after his own staff to stanch future leaks. 

But the e-mail memo threatening them was also leaked.

The e-mail stated: Effective immediately while working for PWD no
employee is to converse, or share information in any way with Antelope
Valley Press
reporter Alisha Semchuck. Anyone contacted by Alisha
should immediately refer her to the General Manager. Failure to follow
this directive will subject an employee to disciplinary action up to
and including termination.

*****

Leaks to the media about dealings at government agencies are nearly
impossible to suppress, according to (Jim) Ewert, legal counsel for the
California Newspaper Publishers Association in Sacramento.

Whether government or corporate whistle-blowing, Ewert called leaks to the media "a time-honored tradition."

Demolishing a communication relationship with the press is equally ineffective, Ewert said.

"He's cutting off his nose to spite his face if he thinks he's going to control the flow (of information)," Ewert said.

Targeting a reporter to be singled out is shaky practice viewed through the lens of case law, Ewert said.

"If they're going to provide access to one media source, they must
provide to all," Ewert said. "They have to treat all media sources the
same." That conclusion falls under the equal protection clause of the
14th Amendment.

Hill, reached for comment by the reporter for this story, said that
singling her out was not the whole intent of his order to cease and
desist from supplying information to the Valley Press.

"It applies to all media," Hill said of his memos. "I just happened to
use your name because you've been the problem," he told the Valley
Press
reporter.