The Centre City Development Corp., the downtown redevelopment agency I’ve been arguing with for three months now about the status of a public records request, has a new policy for submitting those requests under the California Public Records Act, the state law that entitles the public to access government records.

No longer should you send a request for public records in via e-mail, the agency’s spokeswoman, Jamee Lynn Smith, told the Union-Tribune.

From today’s U-T post:

Spokeswoman Jamee Lynn Smith said there are two reasons for the change. One, the agency wants a central point of intake: its front desk. Two, the public will have a receipt showing when they dispatched the query.

Is CCDC creating extra procedural hurdles to discourage future queries? Smith says no. “We’re trying to manage the process,” she said Monday. “I don’ t think it creates an obstacle. It creates an opportunity for them to know requests are going to the right place.”

But CCDC is still accepting requests any way they come, Smith added.

Here’s what she didn’t say: They have to accept them because state law requires it.

Terry Francke, general counsel for Californians Aware, an open-government watchdog, pointed me to the relevant case law that highlights the flaws in CCDC’s new policy. It’s a 2001 case in which the Los Angeles Times sued the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority for access to records.

A California Court of Appeal concluded:

“The California Public Records Act plainly does not require a written request.”

Meaning that you can request records however you want: Over the phone, by e-mail, by letter, by fax or in person.

CCDC’s policy also says “it is important” that requesters provide “Your contact information, including name, address, phone, fax, and email.”

That runs counter to state law, which allows requesters to remain anonymous if they wish. Requesters only have to provide their contact information if they want a written response, if they’re seeking information about pesticides, or if they seek addresses of crime victims or people a law enforcement agency has arrested.

“Somebody can call City Hall on the phone and can ask for a copy of the City Council minutes. Not in person, not in writing,” Francke said. “No court is going to say that’s not an actionable request.”


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