Thursday, May 05, 2016

SF Chron: Vice Mayor Guilty of Destroying Public Records

Let's take a moment to thank the unpaid and dedicated volunteers who serve on the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, for their time and efforts to uphold govt transparency at at City Hall not known for robust and legal open govt practices.

I must single out longtime member and current SOTF chair Dr. Allyson Washburn, who is stepping down from the panel and deserves special attention for all she's done and she'll be missed, tho I'm hopeful still engaged in transparency advocacy.

The San Francisco Chronicle for some reason gives a damn that I filed a complaint over the vice mayor's destruction of public records, and oddly hasn't taken the step of filing their own request for his calendar over the past few years and, um, you know, practice journalism and analyze who he's met with and topics discussed.

Well, any publicity for corrupt sunshine practices at Ed Liar's City Hall, fully embraced by City Attorney Dennis Herrera, is good. Excerpted from the May 6 SF Chronicle story written by Emily Green:

Steve Kawa, chief of staff to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, willfully skirted public records laws when he deleted his calendar on a rolling basis, a city panel that works for open government has concluded.

The 6-1 vote Wednesday, May 4, evening by the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force means Kawa will have to appear before the city’s Ethics Commission to defend his actions.

The vote is a rebuke to both Kawa and the city attorney’s office, which maintained that Kawa is not governed by the same rules as elected officials — namely that they must maintain calendars listing who they meet with and the topic of the meeting. Kawa is one of the most powerful men in City Hall, even though he’s not elected.

“Clearly, Steve Kawa is not an elected official, and we have repeatedly sought out and received advice from the city attorney to affirm that Mr. Kawa does not fall under the same requirements as an elected official,” Christine Falvey, the mayor’s spokeswoman, said. “He serves at the pleasure of the mayor and, in his role, he fully complies with and embraces all of our city’s open government and sunshine laws.”

The dispute began when City Hall public records devotee and political gadfly Michael Petrelis requested Kawa’s calendar and was told his staff regularly deleted entries more than two weeks old. That was also Kawa’s defense to the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force.

The commission found that explanation “perplexing.” “We have not received, in our view, a credible explanation for the calendar’s destruction,” a draft ruling by the task force states. “It is not at all clear why an electronic calendar ... would require Mr. Kawa (or his assistant) to manually purge entries from the calendar.”

Point by point, the task force’s draft ruling rejects the points made by the city attorney in a memo defending Kawa. For example, the city attorney maintained that a staffer’s individual calendar doesn’t serve a “historical function or to inform the public,” but to allow him to keep track of upcoming meetings. The task force countered that “Mr. Kawa’s calendar does not merely reflect his activities but the activities of the mayor’s office as a whole.”

The city attorney also said 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 said the city’s public records laws would have “little effect if city officials or employees could simply destroy public records before they were ever subject to a citizen’s request.”

1 comment:

Michael Petrelis said...

A nice comment from my friend Patrick Monette-Shaw:

Congratulations, Michael for your victory at the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force against Puppet Mayor Ed Lee’s Chief of Staff, Steve Kawa! This is an important victory for transparency in City government.

After reading this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle, I placed a records request to the Administrator of the Sunshine Task Force to obtain the roll call vote on your case. I was surprised to learn that the Task Force had split consideration of its Order of Determination into two separate motions and two roll call votes.

As it turned out, the Task Force voted:

Motion to find Steve Kawa and the Mayor’s Office in violation of Administrative Code (Sunshine Ordinance), Section 67.21.

The motion PASSED by the following vote:

Ayes: 7 - Eldon Wolf, Pilpel, Fischer, Hinze, Hyland, Washburn
Noes: 0 - None
Absent: 2 - Chopra, Haines

Motion to find Steve Kawa and the Mayor’s Office in violation of Administrative Code (Sunshine Ordinance), Sections 67.29-7 and 67.34, adopt the Order of Determination, and refer the matter to the Ethics Commission.

The motion PASSED by the following vote:

Ayes: 6 - Eldon Wolf, Fischer, Hinze, Hyland, Washburn
Noes: 1 - Pilpel
Absent: 2 - Chopra, Haines

Obviously, I wasn’t too surprised that Task Force member David Pilpel — apparently seeking to curry favor with the Mayor’s Office and Mr. Kawa — cast the lone vote against adopting the Order of Determination polished by former Task Force member Mark Rumold, a notable lawyer employed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Pilpel seems to be groveling once again at the trough of corrupt City government.

I’ll attend the Ethics Commission hearing when it is calendared to make sure Pilpel doesn’t — yet again — attempt to undercut the decision of the full Task Force, as he so often does, after the full Body passed a motion not to Pilpel's liking that he disagrees with.

Congratulations, Michael, on this important victory. That “Open Government Hero Badge” on your lapel just keeps getting brighter and brighter!

Patrick Monette-Shaw
Westside Observer Newspaper