A little over a year ago, on April 3, 2006, I filed a Public Records Act Request with the DA's office relating to Grants. On April 14th the DA's Office invoked it's right to a 14 day extension. On May 4th, the DA's Office attempted to limit the information releases, citing "pending litigation" as justification. Believing that justification to be incorrect, I filed a second demand, cc'ing the media. The next day, Richard Hendry from County Counsel's Office, notified me that the information I had requested was ready, told me where i could go to pick it up and how much it would cost.
In the course of "watching paul" I have learned quite a bit about Public Records Act Requests. Whenever I have filed a request with a governmental or granting agency, the requests are handled with remarkable professionalism. First, there is an immediate email response letting me know that they have received the request, telling me who would be handling it (with contact information), letting me know when they would have the information, and, in the event that they needed additional time, there would be a timely email letting me know. On a few occasions, there would be follow up phone calls to further clarify what I was looking for.
Fast forward to today, with the Public Records Act Request regarding the CAST statistics from Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos, I have received NO acknowledgement of receipt of the request. NO information was provided on the date it was due. NO request for additional time. NO notice that the information requested had been sent out.
Thus it was a surprise to receive a packet from Humboldt County Counsel Richard Hendry.
The packet inside states that he is responding on behalf of the District Attorney's Office, and it is dated May 18th, 2007. But, the packet is postmarked May 22nd.
So, it would seem that an apology of sorts would be in order.
BUT. Gallegos has once again refused to release information that is requested.
Among other things, Hendry, writing on behalf of Gallegos, claims that the attendance/sign in sheets for CAST meetings do not have to be released because they are investigatory in nature. That the agendas and minutes of CAST meetings do not have to be released because they are investigatory in nature.
Quote: The District Attorney's Office has determined that, to the extent this request seeks the disclosure of records of investigatory files, those records are completely exempt from disclosure under Government code Section 6254(f), which includes District Attorney case files [Rivero v Superior Court (1997) 54 CalApp.4th 1048], and continues to apply even if the investigation is closed [Williams v Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal.App.4th 337]. The exemption for the records of law enforcement agencies contained in Government Code section 6254(f) has been broadly interpreted [Los Angleles Police Dept. v. Superior Court (1977) 65 Cal. App.3d 661; Northern Cal. Police Practices Project v. Craig (1979) 90 Cal.App.3d 116].
The District Attorney's Office has also determined that this request seeks records that are exempt from disclosure under Government Code section 6254(k), in that it pertains to records the disclosure of which is exempted or prohibited pursuant to state law, including provisions of the Evidence Code relating to privilege. This request seeks records pertaining to the identification, investigation, prevention and treatment of child abuse, and are thus records concerning juveniles protected from disclosure pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 827 [see, In re Keisha T (1995) 38 Cal. App.4th 220] This is so even when a juvenile dependency petition had not been filed; if a child has either suffered or would likely suffer serious neglect or abuse, the disclosure of records is within the sole jurisdiction of the juvenile court, and not available for disclosure absent an Order of the juvenile court [In re Elijah S. (2005) 125 Cal. App.4th 1532] Accordingly, there are no records to disclose in response to this request.
You know - this is pretty silly. I'm not asking for case files. There was no request for any information relating to any juveniles.
That part of the request, pure and simple, was to see whether or not either Gallegos or Schwartz attend CAST meetings. and what have been the problems and concerns that the Advisory Board may have with the way that this multidisciplinary program is being administered by the DA's Office.
CAST - the Child Abuse Services Team - is a multi-disciplinary team comprised of various agencies like the law enforcement agencies (APD, EPD, FPD, etc), Child Welfare Services, The Rape Crisis Team, Mental Health, Probation Department, and individual Tribes, which originally came together in order to identify and help kids who may have been subject to sexual or physical abuse and neglect. The agencies are independent from each other, but share information and a common ground of trying to bring everyone to the table. Those agendas and minutes and attendance sheets are public information.
Again, I ask, what is there to hide?
Note: I have received requests from some reporters for copies of this packet and I am happy to comply.
I want to add that other participating agencies not only receive copies of the agendas and minutes, but they file and keep them. So to think that by refusing to disclose them they will never see the light of day is, really, bordering on insane.