Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mayoral Aides' Hunger Strikers Emails Dismiss Their Lawyer

Former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown established a "leave no trail" policy when he ran City Hall and the current occupant of Room 200, one Ed Lee, closely follows that advice.

My recent public records request to the mayor for all relevant emails and correspondence about anything pertaining to the hunger strikers camped out in front of the Mission police station for over two weeks.

The protesters are upset over SFPD officers killing civilians, want chief Greg Suhr fired and lack of justice from law enforcement agencies and politicians.

I received hundreds of pages in PDFs consisting mainly of reporters requesting interviews with and comments from Lee, his staffers editing a boilerplate response, constituent letters and nothing of relevance about crafting engagement methods with the protesters and contending with their demands.

How can the mayor and his staff not communicate via email or in writing for something as media-grabbing and community-inspiring as the hunger strike, the mayor showing up at the police station unannounced and trying to hold a meeting with the activists and everything else that must be on the agenda in Room 200 stemming from the swelling anger over law enforcement injustices?

The answer comes from Brown who said the "e" in email stands for evidence, so he never used email when serving as City boss.

What Mayor Lee and his staff have crafted, with the great assistance of notorious open government foe City Attorney Dennis Herrera and his retinue, are methods of communication that evade the provenance of sunshine laws.

The most curious email trail began on May 4 around 10 am when an attorney named EmilyRose Johns of the Seigel & Yee law firm based in Oakland, claiming to represent the hunger strikers, wrote to mayoral advisers. Johns was following up on a verbal conversation about setting up a meeting at City Hall between the mayor and the activists.

On the same day withing two-hours, aides thought to refer Johns to the scheduler and top adviser Paul Henderson, who's black and gay and running for judge in the June 7 San Francisco primary, dismissed Johns as "just a lawyer that wants an audience. There is no pending legal requiring either representation or counsel for them or on their behalf. Unless she has anything different to add to the equation, her 'request' should be treated like all others."

Mayor Lee's staff, on May 5, drafted a reply to Johns and questioned amongst themselves why they needed to reply to her. Frankly, I had no idea the activists were using a lawyer as a go-between to negotiate with the mayor.

Aide Henderson again pondered what legal issue was at hand that required the services of a lawyer on behalf of the activists.

The mayor and his staff need to come clean about what written communication they shared as the hunger strikers mobilized thousands of citizens to demand law enforcement accountability, and that communication should be made public.

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