Sunday, April 10, 2016

SF Chron: Blogger Ends Mayoral Deletion of Public Records

Answer me this: What other records have been and are being destroying by mayoral staff at City Hall and with the blessing of the City Attorney?

That's just one question that came to mind when reading this April 1 San Francisco Chronicle story. The larger context here is City Attorney Dennis Herrera and the Clerk of the Board Angela Calvillo are starving the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force of necessary funds to complete its vital open govt duties.

Neither Herrera nor Calvillo want the SOTF hearings aired on SFGovTV. Says a lot about what is wrong with sunshine at City Hall that even though the SOTF meets there, it's not broadcast on the City's cable channel.

Don't forget our corrupt District Attorney George Gascon blithely blows off prosecuting SOTF guilty findings and has no interest regarding enforcement of sunshine laws.

Bottom line to my complaint in this matter? Herrera says it's ok Mayor Ed Lee's vice mayor to delete his calendar, the mayor's office says while there's been nothing wrong with that practice up to now, it's ended. Yeah, but there's been a huge violation of City law Mayor Lee not that you'd know it from the apathy of the City Attorney Herrera and District Attorney Gascon.

Excerpts from the Chronicle piece:

Steve Kawa, chief of staff to Mayor Ed Lee, has the right to delete his calendar on a rolling basis, the city attorney’s office asserted this week as it criticized a proposal before a city committee that Kawa be charged with an ethics violation for willfully skirting public records laws. 

In a seven-page memo to the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office said Kawa was not governed by the same rules as elected officials — namely that they must maintain calendars listing who meets with them and the topic of the meeting. 

“The purpose of a staffer’s individual calendar is not to serve an historical function or inform the public, but rather is to allow the staffer prospectively to keep track of or schedule upcoming meetings, tasks, deadlines or events,” Deputy City Attorney Burke Delventhal wrote in the memo dated Wednesday. 

The subtext to the dispute is that Kawa is not just any staffer. He is one of the most powerful men in City Hall — some would say the most powerful. Before Lee became mayor, Kawa served as chief of staff to Mayor Gavin Newsom and was a top aide to Mayor Willie Brown. 

City Hall public records devotee — some would say gadfly — Michael Petrelis requested Kawa’s calendar and was told his staff regularly deleted calendar entries more than two weeks old. 

“It was one of the more egregious violations we have seen,” Sunshine Ordinance Task Force ChairAllyson Washburn said Thursday. “Anyone who keeps a calendar doesn’t destroy it after two weeks unless you mean to hide what you are doing.” 

Another Sunshine Ordinance Task Force member, Mark Rumold, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, drafted an order that says Kawa’s actions constituted a willful violation of two provisions of the city’s Sunshine Ordinance — that the mayor and all department heads “maintain appropriate records in a businesslike manner” and that the custodians of a public record permit its inspection and copying. 

The proposed order also recommends that Kawa be referred to the Ethics Commission for willfully violating public records laws. The city attorney’s memo is a forceful defense of Kawa. It says the Sunshine Ordinance refers to how records be maintained and not what records must be maintained. 

It also says because Kawa had already deleted parts of his calendar at the time of Petrelis’ request, Kawa no longer had custody of it and therefore complied with the Sunshine Ordinance. The Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, which exists to protect the public’s interest in open government and public records laws, will vote on the matter April 6. 

Kawa, however, has already abandoned his practice of deleting his calendar, mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey said.

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