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.
Robert, thanks for the chart, very interesting. It isn’t really surprising that Santa Clara gets so many more requests than other cities. With all the political drama we have in the city it puts quite a strain on the best source of information for the drama queens to use.
It is very hypocritical of the city of Santa Clara to go after the 49ers for not complying to provide documents. At same time the city continues to not provide the same for journalists or the public let alone a franchise. One week they love the grand jury on VTA results then the next week bad grand jury, almost like a compass guided by the whim of an agenda. The city should admit their faults.
The records should be obtainable both from the city and the 49ers. I know for a fact it wasn’t just The Weekly that gets stonewalled it’s many others. We are in the 21st century and I find it disturbing the lack of compliance and as well the lack of modernization till now (i would include the DMV on this too). I have been in places of employment that have had better record keeping practices than the entire bay cities listed above in the article. These record keeping practices were paper and electronic and were able to locate in a days time. Emailed or printed and this was within a school district so lots of record requests.
The end result in this provided no answers on singer but talked about the pink elephant in the room having a city comply with records requests. Not just Santa Clara but more local cities within Santa Clara County. For once can we say we are wrong ? Can a government entity admit a wrong doing?
This article seems to pick and choose from the story, or line item talking points. Be interesting what council says during this damage control protocol.
Why is it considered attacking or complaining when you feel something is wrong? when you ask for investigating its considered hatred or wrong? is this the world we live in where truth and justice are just backseat passengers to corruption and negligence? time will tell.
So basically, Santa Clara, 49ers comply with protocol and stop wasting time.