A twice-weekly community newspaper published in Willows, Glenn County, filed suit on Christmas Eve against the state Department of Justice, alleging an unlawful withholding of records concerning an investigation decision. The Sacramento Valley Mirror is asking the court to order the department either to provide access to the requested records or provide more specific information about what is being withheld or redacted.

The records sought are any that exist concerning the department’s investigation of allegations of improper conduct by Glenn County’s former Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Joni Samples, including “all letters and e-mails of recommendation, letters and e-mails as pleas for clemency, letters and e-mails asking for non-prosecution and related documents . . .”  The paper’s December 3 request noted:

The Department of Justice has been investigating this matter for a year, after having it referred by the Glenn County Grand Jury. The grand jury’s report and probe was based on 70 stories done by this newspaper.

We found misuse of public money, equipment and staff; electioneering on the job and with public funds; theft of confidential information for election mailings, commingling of private and public money for travel; and fraud, the use of billing of nonexistent airplane tickets.

The department denied the request categorically 10 days later, citing investigative and privacy exemptions from disclosure.   The Valley Mirror’s editor and publisher is Tim Crews, one of three journalists on the 12-member board of directors of Californians Aware.