(CalAware Weekly comprises this plus the three previous posts)

Open Government

Editorial: Cop Unions’ Clout Accounts for Secrecy      The North County Times comments on the fact that one month later, the public knows more about a woman shot in a March 15 incident in Oceanside than it does about her self-confessed shooter, a police officer.

After Lawsuit, County OKs Public Records Training     The Willows Journal reports that the Glenn County Board of Supervisors has agreed to have top-level county personnel trained on handing public record requests following the third lawsuit this year by newspaper publisher Tim Crews—this time for refusing access to a death certificate.

Bill Barring Private Vetoes of Public Access Advances      California Chronicle reports that on a 33-1 bipartisan vote, the California Senate has approved legislation that would prohibit a state or local agency from allowing an outside entity to control the disclosure of information, including but not limited to an audit report, that is otherwise subject to the state´s Public Records Act.

Public Information

Assembly Won’t Release Golden Handshake Data     The Sacramento Bee reports that in the wake of claims that taxpayers could be ripped off by golden handshakes offered by the Assembly, the lower house refuses to release any financial projections or analysis of the offer it made last month to sweeten pensions of up to 222 aides if they retire this year.

Editorial: Officials’ Shield from Tickets Must End    The Marysville Appeal-Democrat calls for repeal of a little-known secrecy law that protects police, judges, elected officials and a wide variety of others on the public payroll from traffic tickets—an unnecessary law that some legislators are trying to expand to cover more public employees.

Editorial: Officers’ Names, Pay Must Stay Open      The Reporter in Vacaville opines that “An idea floating around Sacramento last week to shield police officers’ identities and salary information from public view seems to have been promptly and properly deflated. It should not be revived.”

City Sits on Traffic Impact Report re Target Store     A controlled development activist writing in the Scotts Valley Banner reports that the city is refusing to release a traffic impact report on a proposed 155,000-square-foot Target store—during a 30-day period for public comment on the project’s environmental impacts that ends April 30.  The city says the report is just a draft and that the public interest is better served by keeping staff comments confidential. (Note: The report has since been released after disclosure that it was already shared with Target representatives.)

County Won’t Release Jail Video of Late Inmate      The Eureka Times-Standard reports that Humboldt County has declined its second request asking for the release of video footage of a jail inmate in the hours leading up to his death last August. The County Coroner’s Office said the man died of blunt force trauma, but stopped short of determining the cause. The District Attorney, declining to prosecute anyone, said video footage of the man in custody shows him thrashing about violently, and possibly hitting his head numerous times on unpadded parts of his cell. The County Counsel justified withholding the video in that release would compromise jail security, putting both officers and inmates at risk.

County Won’t Release Report on Sheriff’s Acts     The San Luis Obispo County Telegram-Tribune reports that county officials have refused to release the findings of a liability investigation concerning the conduct of Sheriff Pat Hedges. The sheriff is being investigated by the state Attorney General’s Office for alleged illegal eavesdropping on Chief Deputy Gary Hoving in 2006. The county began its investigation into Hedges’ conduct in October after Hoving filed a $1.25 million claim against it.

University Won’t Release Probe of Department     The San Jose State University Spartan Daily reports that the campus administration, citing the privacy of the aviation department chair, won’t release a report paid for by the university based on an investigation of alleged problems within the aviation department, including accusations of mismanagement, incompetent professors and poor curriculum.

Public Records Disclose . . .

  • that at least 439 people have died in San Francisco since February 2004 while waiting for a late ambulance or after delayed medical help arrived.
  • that a former Calaveras County chief building official, fired last year, ignored county policies, destroyed planning documents, signed off on substandard building inspections and cursed at employees.
  • a list of 315 educators who face potential layoffs as an Orange County school district seeks to trim $19.3 million from next year’s budget.

Free Speech

FCC Hears Internet Use Arguments at Stanford     The Palo Alto Weekly reports that the future of Internet use — and First Amendment rights to free speech, some said — was discussed at a roughly seven-hour hearing convened by the Federal Communications Commission with panels of experts at Stanford University yesterday.

L.A. Times Owner Accused of Speech Intimidation      A San Diego County Supervisor, writing in the online Voice of San Diego, contends that a company whose major shareholder is Sam Zell, the new chairman and chief executive of Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angeles Times, is suing her for defamation in order to silence her criticism of the company’s treatment of mobile home residents in her district.

Mayor  Firmly Enforces 2-Minute Comment Rule     The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that the mayor has had his finger on the city hall microphone’s "off" switch lately to ensure constituents comply with new rules limiting public comments at council meetings to two minutes per speaker per topic.

Council Members Can Respond to Citizen Remarks      The Contra Costa Times reports that Richmond City Council members now can respond to "erroneous" charges leveled against them by speakers during public meetings, a new policy that some say detracts from the spirit of open forum.

Bill Would Crack Down on Animal Rights Protest      The Contra Costa Times reports that the University of California has gone to the Legislature seeking to restrict public access to information about academics and corporate researchers who use animals in experiments and to make it illegal to post personal information about them online. The prohibited online information would include the researchers’ names, home addresses and photographs.

Cop Rating Site Gets Mixed Reviews Near San Diego     The North County Times reports that, which lists the names of thousands of officers nationwide and lets visitors anonymously post comments about them, may be satisfactory to many but in the northern San Diego County area is excessive from the standpoint of law enforcement agencies and inadequate from the standpoint of those seeking consistent monitoring of police performance.

Comment: No Censorship of Intelligent Design Ideas     Writing in the Los Angeles Times, the publisher of Skeptic  magazine says that the new Ben Stein movie “Expelled” is wrong in virtually every one of its factual claims about the alleged persecutions of those who challenge the theory of evolution.

Free Press

Senate Panel OKs Shield for Journalism Advisors       The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a state Senate committee has approved proposed legal protections for high school and college journalism teachers after hearing instructors’ complaints of retaliation for hard-hitting articles in student newspapers.

Coping with Immigrant Communities’ Taboos       La Opinión reports that ethnic media journalists met in Los Angeles recently to discuss how to confront conflicts with their own readership communities’ political and cultural sensitivities.  For example, since Nguoi Viet in Orange County published a photograph in January depicting the colors of the South Vietnamese flag in the reflection of a footbath, Vietnamese have violently protested the paper, saying the image desecrated the flag.

Open Meetings

College Board Keeps Ballots on Hiring Secret      The Santa Barbara City College Channels reports that in its decision on hiring a new president, the college’s board of trustees apparently violated California’s public meeting law by withholding the tally on both the preliminary or “straw” votes and the final formal vote.

Closed Hearing Sought for Non-sworn Officer     The Bay Area Reporter reports that a lawyer for a “patrol special officer”—a business security guard who is not a peace officer—has asked the San Francisco Police Commission to close a hearing into charges that the officer improperly appointed another person to the patrol without authority.

Council Allows Citizens’ Electronic Presentations      The North County Times reports that after a spirited debate about technology and free speech, the Escondido City Council has voted 4-1 to allow people to use DVDs, slide shows and other electronic displays when they address the council,??reasoning that it should be the First Amendment right of people to use multimedia materials to bolster whatever case they are making on an issue.