PUBLIC INFORMATION --  Brian Ellis, who since August has been asking the Glendale Unified School District for the names and pay of every employee earning more than $100 per year, has given officials a December 1 deadline for release of the information or face a lawsuit under the California Public Records Act, reports Max Zimbert in the Glendale News Press.

Ellis, a Glendale resident and husband of a former board of
education member, began asking for the list in August, and submitted a
formal public information request Oct. 5. Under California law, public
agencies have 10 days to respond to such requests, but can have an
extension. But so far, Ellis’ request has gone unfulfilled, exposing
the school district to possible legal action.


“It seems
extraordinary for them to take this long on what should be a very
simple request with readily accessible information that has been
clearly a matter of public record,” said Terry Francke, who was
executive director and general counsel for the California First
Amendment Coalition for 14 years and founder of Californians Aware, a
nonpartisan nonprofit that promotes government transparency.


Glendale
Unified Supt. Michael Escalante said the most recent information would
be delivered to Ellis within days. Ellis addressed school board members
last week to request the records.

“I’ve
got to pull it from different places and get it together, but I haven’t
made it a priority,” Escalante said. “He’s due that information?.?.?.?I
just have to give it the priority of getting it done this week.”


Ellis’s hunt began at a summertime homeowners association meeting with school board Vice President Greg Krikorian.

“I
said I appreciate your question and concern,” Krikorian said. “I passed
on his request to appropriate staff members to handle it. If it’s not
handled properly, I pass that on to the superintendent. I said, ‘Please
handle this as soon as possible without affecting the everyday
education of our students and handling the present budget crisis we’re
in.’”


District officials provided 2006-07 salary figures last
autumn, but have not furnished the most recent information to match
Ellis’s request. Salaries for 2009-10 become available in July,
district officials said.


Ellis has given district officials until Dec. 1 as a deadline to match his inquiry before filing a lawsuit.

“I’m
not hesitant to sue to compel because it is a public record and I know
in the long run the court will rule in our favor and they’ll pay the
attorney’s bill,” Ellis said. “ “I would rather have them do what’s
right and provide the materials than take on the extra expense.”


Ellis
could file an action and it could quickly trigger the release of
information from the district, but whether the district would owe him
for attorney’s fees is unclear, Francke said.


“One case held
that when the record shows an agency has been making a protracted, but
good faith effort to find all the records that were responsive to
request, but didn’t quite get all of them before the suit was filed,
the plaintiff is not entitled to fees,” Francke said. “If the paper
trail on this were to appear to a court to represent artificial delay,
let’s say, then there’s a good chance the requester could get his fees
up to the point of filing the action.”


Ellis said the delays were making him think district administrators were deliberately keeping secrets.

“There’s
information they may not want to get out because it might be
embarrassing for them,” he said. “If that’s true, let them dig their
own hole.”


District officials said there were about 125 to 150
employees making more than $100,000, of which some are administrators
and others are teachers. The district employs about 2,800 people. One
or two employees make more than $200,000, Krikorian said.


Escalante’s
salary was more than $273,000, according to the Los Angeles County
Department of Education survey released earlier this year.