California State University Stanislaus violated its duties
under the state’s public records law and must release the CSU Foundation's speaking
contract with former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, as well as its own costs for the July 20th event, a judge has ruled.

County Superior Court Judge Roger M. Beauchesne, in an order filed Monday,
August 23 and received in the mail today by the parties, issued the declaratory
judgment sought by Californians Aware (CalAware) concluding that:

  • “the
    University failed to produce any public records called for by (CalAware’s)
    request until after the initiation and service of the instant lawsuit, which
    records established that the University did possess public records responsive
    to the request as of . . . April 6 . . .
  • “the
    University’s failures to follow the California Public Records Act, and to
    produce records when and as requested, whether deliberate, negligent or
    inadvertent, constitute violations of its obligations under the California
    Public Records Act, which contains no requirement that bad faith or a similar mens
    be proven in
    order to establish an actionable violation. . .
  • “the
    reasonable inference from the evidence produced is that the University, in its
    official capacity, has ‘used’ the contract between the Washington Speaker’s
    Bureau (with Ms. Palin and the CSU Foundation) in the conduct of the public’s
    business; therefore, said contract is also a public record and should have been
    produced to Petitioner.”

Beauchesne was referring to evidence contained in an e-mail eventually made
public by the University showing that CSU Chancellor Charles Reed was aware of
the fee contracted to be paid to Palin for her speaking appearance at the July
20 celebration of the campus’s 50
th Anniversary Gala.

The judge
also granted CalAware a writ of mandate requiring the University to release the
contract as well as any so far unreleased “documentation related to the use of
University property, personnel, facilities or services provided in connection
with the Gala for which the University sought or will seek reimbursement from
the Foundation.”  He found,
however, that the Foundation itself was not subject to the Public Records Act.

Judge Beauchesne ordered the University to pay CalAware the costs and attorney’s
fees it incurred in bringing the lawsuit.

Kelly Aviles, CalAware President Dennis Winston, and CalAware General Counsel Terry Francke, all of whom represented CalAware in
the lawsuit, issued the following joint statement:

are very pleased with the decision.  Judge Beauchesne, who had taken the
matter under submission on August 2
nd, carefully considered the
arguments of all the parties.  Ultimately, he correctly sided with the
public's right to be informed about how its money is being spent.  This
ruling upholds California citizens' right to maintain oversight and control of
their government.  Public oversight is the only way that citizens are
assured that public money is handled in an appropriate matter.  We are
hopeful that this will prompt CSU to reevaluate the way in which it handles public
records requests in the future."