The California Public Records Act says public agencies have to release information when journalists or any members of the public ask to see it. There are, of course, some records that are exempt, but sometimes agencies claim those exemptions to keep records secret.
Such was the case when San Diego Unified School District withheld certain emails last year during Voice of San Diego’s investigation of former San Diego Unified board member Marne Foster. Our series of stories led to a criminal conviction and ultimately unseated Foster.
The district said some requested emails weren’t released because of a public records exemption that lets agencies withhold records and conversations wherein public employees deliberate over policy.
Voice of San Diego sued the school district over the emails, and in March, a Superior Court judge ruled in VOSD’s favor, finding that San Diego Unified had indeed improperly withheld emails between district staff, school board members and Superintendent Cindy Marten.
VOSD’s Mario Koran explains that the emails confirm previously reported findings and “shed new light on the way San Diego Unified kept emails and documents hidden from the public’s view while one of its school board members was under investigation.”
• Voice of San Diego isn’t the only media outlet that has a hard time getting information from San Diego Unified. The district this year was awarded the San Diego Society of Professional Journalist’s “Wall Award” for dodging requests from VOSD, NBC 7 and 10News.
Activist Back in U.S. After Mysterious Ordeal
San Diego migrant activist Hugo Castro is back in San Diego, where he’s receiving medical treatment for injuries after a harrowing and mysterious ordeal that left him severely beaten on the side of a road in Mexico.
KPBS reporter Jean Guerrero has been following the story closely. She reported Sunday that Castro’s partner posted news of Castro’s return to the United States on Facebook.
ICYMI, we talked to Guerrero about Castro’s work, his disappearance and more on the most recent episode of the weekly VOSD Podcast.
SANDAG Reform Bill Moves Forward; Small Cities’ Worries Continue
A bill that would reform SANDAG and change the oversight structure of the regional transportation agency passed a committee vote last week, and that has some local leaders of small cities continuing to express their concerns about how places with smaller populations will get the short end of the deal.
East County Magazine quotes a letter from Lemon Grove Councilman Jerry Jones, who says AB 805 would be spell the “end of the regional collaboration and decision-making.”
On Tuesday, La Mesa’s City Council will consider hiring a lobbyist to advocate against AB 805 on La Mesa’s behalf.
Written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, thebill would ramp up oversight of the agency and give cities with larger populations more control over SANDAG’s decision-making.
Voice of San Diego’s series on SANDAG shows the agency knowingly misled voters and relied on a faulty economic forecast, while also hiding ballooning project costs from the public.
Weekend News Roundup
• An estimated 15,000 people marched through downtown San Diego in support of science Saturday. (NBC 7)
• California hasn’t executed an inmate in over a decade, but the Associated Press reports that the state could “come close to resuming executions in the next year.”
• San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Dan McSwain is appalled by the latest homeless census numbers. Part of the problem, he says: “Put simply, the overall response of city officials is in slow motion.”
• District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ likely run for county supervisor won’t be easy. (U-T)
• The U-T does the math on California’s new gas tax, adding it to other gas taxes and fees already in effect, and finds that that state “is on pace to come within one cent of having the highest gasoline tax burden in the country.”
• The schedules for the 2017 NFL season are out and the draft is this week, which led U-T sports writer Kevin Acee to ponder how Chargers fans are now navigating the team’s absence.
• The Union-Tribune’s community almanac is officially a thing.