September 19, 2014 Update

Here's an update on our ongoing projects:

  •  "California Public Records Act: Compliance Audit" - While we are still awaiting records for several municipalities, an unusual response was received. As many may know, the California Public Records Act (CPRA), like the Freedom of Information Act, allows agencies to extend the time in which they are required to respond. For the CPRA, the time limit of 10 calender days may be deferred for up to 14 days in "unusual circumstances." (Calif. Gov't. Code § 6253(c)) In this instance, our routine request for "[a]ll CPRA requests received by the City of Newport Beach and its related departments in digital form (e.g. .xls, .xlsx, .csv, etc.) for a period of 3 years" was deferred by the City of Newport Beach (the City) as presenting "unusual circumstances." More specifically, the City's based its deferment on the following questionable circumstances: 1)“unusual circumstances exist that require the City to take additional time to determine whether the request, in whole or in part, seeks copies of disclosable public records in the possession of the City;” 2) "additional time to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request;" and 3) “time to compile data, to write programming language or a computer program, or to construct a computer report to extract data.” Obviously, each of these circumstances is quite vague in light of technology, and the responsiveness of neighboring cities such as Irvine. To this end, we have requested clarification, setting forth our "logic" arguments: "1) Requests made pursuant to the CPRA and submitted to a city are plainly public records. This is demonstrated by the hasty responses of the City of Irvine and City of Tustin to the exact same request. I honestly cannot perceive an exemption that would apply to such records. 2) I find it improbable that the office that processes CPRA requests does not actually maintain records of such CPRA requests. While it is possible, I find it further improbable that your office maintains any field offices or must travel to any field offices or facilities to “search for and collect the requested records” where the requested record is a simple pre-compiled database that is utilized to comply with state law, presumably, on a daily basis by your office; and 3) Finally, while it is possible your office utilizes a third-party software to track and maintain CPRA requests, I doubt that such software does not provide a preconfigured export to Microsoft Excel function. If this is the case, I would kindly ask you provide the software name and provider so that I may contact them to determine whether they provide a function to export to Microsoft Excel or another file type. (For instance, the City of Irvine utilized SIRE Technologies which allows one to export filtered data to Microsoft Excel format.)"

  • "What's in your Grandpa's FBI File?" - Our recent requests to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have been received by the FBI and are now being processed. We aren't holding our breath however. Considering our most recent FBI request was processed in a period of not less than one and one-half year, we won't expect a formal letter for at least six months to one year. Despite this, we will, as always, follow-up with the agency to ensure our interest is recognized.
  • "Confidential Investigation #1" - Unfortunately, we regret to inform you that our lead on potential discriminatory scheme at a school was terminated after pre-request negotiations with the institution's administration revealed the records maintained were in an unprocessed, paper-only form. Moreover, such records were not collected on a widespread basis and, therefore, could not provide a legitimate medium from which to examine.

    More information is on the way as the deadline for response to our FOIA and CPRA requests grows near. Stay tuned for more information and news concerning open government, our constitutional rights, and more!