Since Darren Pudgil, the spokesman for Mayor Jerry Sanders, has stopped returning my phone calls, I talked to the mayor at a press conference he held earlier today at the University of San Diego.

I’ve wanted to know why the city is keeping secret 692 e-mails we’ve requested about the mayor’s shelved water-cuts plan. (The city turned over 700 others.) I’ve asked for the records because I wanted to know what factored into the misrepresentations that city officials made about the challenges of implementing other strategies.

Sanders has made transparency a cornerstone of his administration. It was a central pledge in his 2005 campaign. The day after he was elected in 2005, he told the Union-Tribune that voters “chose a new path for the city of San Diego, a path that will lead to financial stability, transparent decision-making and a restoration of public trust in city government.”

I asked Sanders whether that pledge of transparency stops if an issue arises that could potentially be damaging to his administration. He said:

No, but I think that transparency means we’re giving you the ones that we should. If they’re draft documents, because we have to have people be able to work on things — especially on computers. If it’s got draft on it, that means that’s an incomplete idea, it means they’re throwing out something. I think it’s perfectly legitimate to keep those. It’d be like you giving us your stories before you write them. You’d be wanting to make changes and make sure you’re correct. That’s exactly what we do with those. I don’t think that’s any silencing transparency. I think it’s very responsible in terms of what we put out instead of just random thoughts.

But the city did turn over some draft e-mails. It turned over unsent messages, e-mails throwing out ideas for policy, strategies for pitching City Council members and draft versions of presentations.

Sanders said he had not directed Pudgil to stop returning our phone calls. I asked: Isn’t it a spokesman’s job to be responsive to the media?

I think he is. We’re being inundated with PRA (California Public Record Act) requests right now. We have other things we do besides PRA requests. Some of the PRA requests take boxes and boxes and boxes. You guys come down, look at them and say I don’t need it after all.

Darren’s got to balance all of that. I think Darren should be responsive. But I think there’s also a limit to that.


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