PUBLIC INFORMATION -- Members of the state's political watchdog agency rejected calls yesterday to immediately suspend the publication of its warning letters
on the Internet, reports Andrew McIntosh for the Sacramento Bee.

The
chairman and members of the Fair Political Practices Commission also
dismissed suggestions that the online posts—which it launched Aug. 31
without advance notice—were akin to an unfair political practice by
the state.

Bradley Hertz, president of the 120-member California
Political Attorneys Association, told commissioners he's concerned that
people are being investigated and declared guilty of breaches before
they have a chance to respond. Hertz said the FPPC
posted several "factually incorrect letters" on the Web last week
wrongly saying people had violated the Political Reform Act when they
hadn't."

With
prior notice and deliberation, it would have been possible to develop a
policy that avoided posting incorrect and potentially damaging
information," Hertz said, asking that the letters be removed from the
Web to allow more consultation and debate.

Commissioner Lynn
Montgomery and Karen Getman, an ex-FPPC chairwoman turned private
lawyer, said the agency should have warned interested parties about its
change of policy so concerns could be aired.

FPPC Chairman Ross Johnson and commissioners Ronald Rotunda and Elizabeth Garrett—both law professors—were unsympathetic. "The
commission didn't view this as a major public policy change," Johnson
said. "The only difference is the public doesn't have to jump through
hoops now. We're proactively disclosing these now."

Commissioners
said the FPPC merely put online what's been available upon request for
decades, earning praise from open government advocates such as
California Common Cause and the Center for Governmental Studies.