17xeqc8w4mi7ajpgI hope this Giving Tuesday finds you not so swamped by appeals for other worthy causes that you can’t consider support for our work at CalAware. We defend and foster informed and engaged self-government, particularly here in California, through legal rights of access to government meetings and records and protections for speech, press, electronic media and whistleblowing.

If your only contact with us is through our email-delivered blog, CalAware Today, you may not be aware of what we’ve been up to otherwise. So as a reminder, in 2014 we have:

put the finishing touches on a revised (ebook and paperback) edition, due for publication in January, of our CalAware Guide to the Brown Act and other open meeting laws, completely updated from the first edition of 2006;

thanks to litigator Kelly Aviles, our Vice President for Open Government Compliance, filed a Public Records Act suit against the City of Salinas for withholding a continually updated document used to set future city council agenda items, and in settlement won the document’s release and a pledge to keep it available to the public in the future;

again thanks to Kelly, filed a Brown Act suit (still pending) against the Pasadena Community College board for holding two closed sessions listed as concerning “anticipated litigation” in which the outgoing chancellor was awarded a severance package disclosed after the fact;

used Brown Act “cease and desist” letters to convince the nonprofit Civic SD in San Diego to amend its bylaws to stop designating special meetings as regular meetings to allow the consideration of  executive compensation at its convenience, and to convince the Encinitas Unified School District to pledge not to repeat its practice of allowing a majority of the board to attend an administrators’ executive retreat without notice to the public;

presented training in instructional workshops for lawyers sponsored by the State Bar and by a private seminar firm;

approved the invitation by a trustee of the Los Angeles Unified School District to CalAware Secretary/Treasurer Robert Stern to participate in a task force on the issue of retention of emails more than a year old;

expanded public attention to our work through increasing use of social media;

continued our own daily attention to calls, emails and other requests for help from all kinds of people, inside and outside government, with questions about transparency or free speech law, or encountering barriers or brush-offs in trying to exercise such rights; but

faced frustration in our legislative efforts to provide protection from SLAPP suit attorney fee penalties for citizens who sue local agencies unsuccessfully to enforce taxpayer rights—because our proposed bill author, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) reneged on his commitment to introduce the bill shortly before he was indicted by a federal grand jury for various alleged criminal abuses of office.  Another legislative frustration was Governor Brown’s veto of a bill we co-sponsored with the California Newspaper Publishers Association and Northern California ACLU, to protect citizens addressing local government bodies from various stratagems too often used to silence or discourage them.

We’re critically dependent on your tax-deductible support this season. Beyond assistance in publishing our CalAware Guides, we receive no grants from either public or private sources, and apart from those book sales, our only source of income is from individuals and organizations who feel our work is worth sustaining. Please help us continue, with either a membership or an even more substantial donation.  In return we’ll send you our 50-page how-to booklet, Community Watchdog: An Investigative Checklist.

Grateful for your generosity and wishing you warm holidays and a rewarding 2015,

Terry Francke
Californians Aware

2218 Homewood Way

Carmichael, CA 95608