Swearengin’s Secrecy: Fresno Limits Public Records Requests to 3 Subjects

Posted by on Jul 24, 2013 in Blog, California Politics, Featured Post | Comments Off

Swearengin’s Secrecy: Fresno Limits Public Records Requests to 3 Subjects

The City of Fresno continues to hide information from the public in violation of the state’s public records law. For three months, under the disastrous leadership of Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the city has refused to disclose public documents in reference to the search for a new Fresno State president.

The latest creative interpretation of the California Public Records Act: requests must be limited to three individuals and one or two keywords at a time.

When asked in the rebuttal of the rebuttal to a denial of my public records request, a city representative said, “The request should seek information between no more than 3 persons (preferably less), and include only a one or two word subject matter.”

Funny. I can’t seem to find a 3 person limit anywhere in the state’s public records law.

Of course, there are no limits to the number of public records requests allowed by law. Under the city’s draconian and illegal policies, anyone could submit a separate request for each term.

That’s OK. I’ve decided to play their game. My most recent request was limited in scope to just three city employees.

1. To or from Georgeanne White referencing any of the following words, phrases or derivatives thereof: Pete Mehas; CSU Chancellor; Fresno State; Michael Krikorian; Jim Boren; and/or editorial;

2. To or from Kelli Furtado referencing any of the following words, phrases or derivatives thereof: Pete Mehas; CSU Chancellor; Fresno State; Michael Krikorian; Jim Boren; and/or editorial;

3. To or from Cheryl Burns referencing any of the following words, phrases or derivatives thereof: Pete Mehas; CSU Chancellor; Fresno State; Michael Krikorian; Jim Boren; and/or editorial;

Another interesting tidbit from the city’s rebuttal: the city keeps its servers in an classified location. According to the city’s email, “Information is stored/maintained on a server; the location of the server is classified for security purposes.” That tidbit was a response to my request to “describe the information technology and physical location in which the records exist,” a right under California Government Code section 6253.1.

The city’s entire response:

The City’s email information is stored/maintained on a server;  the location of the server is classified for security purposes.  Suggestions to overcome a vague or overbroad request for documents would include:  (a) simplify the request:  the request should seek information between no more than 3 persons (preferably less), and include only a one or two word subject matter.  For example, requesting emails regarding one person and their contact with seven other persons will bring up thousands of potential responsive emails.  Adding a list of five to ten subject words will increase the search results to tens of thousands of potentially responsive documents; and (b) be aware that using common words like “Fresno”, “mayor”, “manager”, etc., will bring up tens of thousands of potentially responsive emails, as anytime such a word(s) is used in any email on the system, it will be flagged as a potentially responsive document.   I hope these guidelines assist you with your queries.

Fresno Bee editorial described the search process as “a shameful poke in the eye to all who believe in transparent government.” Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the one-time rising Republican star, has put government bureaucrats ahead of government transparency.

For the complete backstory, check out this previous post.