By Robert Haugh
In June, the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury slammed the City for being slow in answering requests for public information.
According to the California Public Records Act (CPRA), all public agencies are supposed to respond to requests from the public or news media in a timely fashion. The standard is 10 days. But agencies can request an extension for complicated stuff.
The Grand Jury started looking into this issue because Planning Commissioner Anthony Becker complained to them about PR firm Singer and Associates’ contract with the City.
When the City’s records for Singer were hard to find, the Grand Jury started asking questions about the record-keeping process.
Here’s what SanJoseInside.com wrote:
“The grand jury interviewed city staff to get a better sense of how it handles CPRA requests. What it learned was that Santa Clara spent more than a year discussing the need to centralize and streamline public records and modernize the whole process but had little to show for it. Except, that is, for hiring Dominique Davis on Jan. 31 as the designated public records manager.
“Apparently, Santa Clara had been trying for a year-and-a-half to implement a computerized records process and even procured two software systems to carry it out: Lazerfiche and NextRequest. But, by the time the grand jury released its findings this week, neither had yet been activated.”
It sounds like the City has a lot of work to do. But someone beside Dominique Davis will have to do it. When we tried to contact her, we found out she’s no longer with the City.
Tonight, the City staff has a long defense of their practices. But we noticed one interesting chart:
According to this chart, Santa Clara gets 20 times more requests than Sunnyvale per month on average. Wow.
And 1,300 per year. Double wow.
We’ve heard City staff say in the past that there’s a huge number of requests that come from the 49ers and the Santa Clara Weekly. It’ll be interesting to know how many. It’s also interesting that the 49ers appear to be the Weekly’s largest recurring advertiser.
We’ve made a reasonable number of requests to the City. The City staff has been pretty good about responding.
Ironically, the requests that don’t get answered are ones related to the 49ers. We asked for the VenueNext contract last May. That’s the company that got a stadium contract and 49er exec/stadium manager Jim Mercurio (and others) owned stock in a clear conflict of interest. Dominique Davis wrote the us that the 49ers would not respond to a request for the contract.
Last year, we asked Assistant City Manager Ruth Shikada for the Bourbon Steak restaurant lease. That’s the restaurant at the stadium that’s using space that could be a community room — something the 49ers promised the City. But Shikada said she didn’t have it or couldn’t get it.
Maybe the next Civil Grand Jury could check these issues out, too.