PUBLIC INFORMATION –  The Humboldt County Superior Court has awarded a Fortuna resident $22,000 in attorney’s fees and court costs for her successful lawsuit to force the city to allow access to the schematics of its municipal water system.

“I am sorry it had to come to this,” Janelle Egger told her attorney, Paul Nicholas Boylan of Davis. “But I really had no choice but to hire a lawyer to help me get the records I requested."

Ms. Egger, a vocal critic of the City of Fortuna’s plan to build a new water system, feels that the city staff hasn’t adequately studied how to best use the existing system. To learn more, she made a request under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) for the information the staff used to come up with its recommendation to invest millions of dollars in a new system.

“In particular," she says, "I asked to see the water system schematic, which was shown at a city council meeting as part of a PowerPoint presentation. I wanted to look at it a little closer.  But I was told I couldn’t have it because of "national security concerns.”

Egger hired Boylan, an experienced CPRA litigator, who prepared and filed a lawsuit. The city provided the documents Egger wanted—including a full-size copy of the water system schematic—and, on June 10, Superior Court Judge John T. Feeney ordered it to pay Boylan $22,728 to compensate him for the time he spent on the case. The CPRA requires local agencies to pay the attorney’s fees of citizens who have to sue in order to obtain public records.

“I am confident the city will react differently the next time my client asks to see public records,” Boylan says. “I have a similar motion in Glenn County dealing with virtually identical facts and law, which means the rulings should be similar, but I am still waiting to find out what that judge decides.”

In the Glenn County lawsuit, the Sacramento Valley Mirror requested public documents from the City of Willows.  The city provided copies, but blacked out important information.  The Mirror filed a petition for writ of mandate asking the Superior Court to order the city to reveal the blacked out information. In response to the lawsuit, the city provided the documents with no deletions.