If you’ve followed the drama that unfolded between two Union-Tribune reporters and City Hall staff last month, you know that I’m not the only one who’s had trouble getting information out of the Mayor’s Office.

The two Union-Tribune reporters working on a story had a June run-in with city employees and the mayor’s staff about transparency. The city responded by posting authorized-employees-only signs on the seventh floor of City Hall.

The U-T’s editorial page, which has been supportive of Sanders, today told the mayor and his spokesman, Darren Pudgil, to pound sand. Saying the Mayor’s Office has reached “a new low,” the newspaper said it was “deeply dismayed” by the city’s lack of transparency.

Without referring to Pudgil Watch by name, the newspaper’s editorial notes:

[I]t often appears that when requested documents are more likely to embarrass the mayor, the tougher it is to get them. Explanations of why certain information is withheld are inconsistent — sometimes draft e-mails are mysteriously held to be privileged communication, sometimes not. Reporters’ messages requesting access to public records are sometimes simply ignored.

Now a new development makes us wonder if the deterioration of Sanders’ long-stated commitment to transparent government is complete. The mayor’s staff has accused Union-Tribune reporter Brooke Williams and data specialist Danielle Cervantes of using “physical and verbal intimidation” in attempts to get a city employee to provide public documents during a June 17 visit to City Hall. According to deputy press secretary Bill Harris, this “seemed to be an escalation of the intimidating tactics Danielle and Brooke attempt to employ with members of the mayor’s communication staff.”

This is preposterous. Sanders, Pudgil and Harris would have the public believe that it amounts to “intimidation” for journalists to try to get the city of San Diego to live up to its legal obligation to operate in open, transparent fashion.

This editorial page has been mostly supportive of the mayor’s policy initiatives and backed his 2008 re-election. But we are extremely disappointed by his decision to stonewall and bully the media. What’s being done isn’t just arrogant. In this state, it’s unconstitutional.

Update: I heard from Danielle Cervantes, one of the U-T employees involved in the City Hall flap. She said she and her colleague weren’t there reporting on the newspaper’s recent payroll stories, as this post originally stated, but a different story “about checks.”


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