Schwarzenegger – Associated Press

Copyright 2004, Associated Press

Schwarzenegger to release his appointment calendars to public

(Associated Press 11/17/04) — Attorneys for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote the media-backed California First Amendment Coalition on Wednesday, agreeing to honor its public records request under newly passed Proposition 59 for the governor’s appointments calendar and daily schedule.

In a letter to CFAC Executive Director Peter Scheer, the governor’s legal affairs secretary, Peter Siggins promised to compile records of Schwarzenegger’s first year in office within 35 days, and invited the CFAC to inspect the documents as they are being compiled.

Scheer called the letter a “mostly positive” development, saying, “We won’t know what we’re getting until we see what we’re getting. We don’t know the nature of this process.” But he said he was encouraged.

“I see my function here as basically being a delivery man for the media,” he said. “My organization will certainly read the documents and have our opinions, too. But the main purpose of everything we’ve done is to get these records into the public domain.”

While in Japan last week, Schwarzenegger promised to release the requested records of his meetings and appointments, saying, “I have no secrets. There’s nothing on the schedule that I have met with some terrorists groups or something like that.”

The governor’s action stands in sharp contrast to refusals by Republican Govs. George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson during the 1980s and 1990s to release calendars, schedules and information about their meetings and appointments to The Los Angeles Times.

“Those governors simply said ‘No, a thousand times no. We don’t care what the theory is,’” Scheer said. “This governor is not excluding anything on a categorical theory.”

Deukmejian and Wilson argued – and court rulings backed them up – that releasing such documents would “chill” decision making in the executive office and limit the variety of views they could obtain. Both claimed successfully in court that a “deliberative process privilege” enabled them to keep secret whom they consulted to arrive at decisions. A 1991 California Supreme Court ruling held that many people would decline to meet with a governor if they felt their input or presence at key meetings would become public.

The San Rafael-based First Amendment Coalition and other media groups maintained that many other public officials subsequently used the Supreme Court decision to keep their own deliberations secret.

Scheer’s group asked for Schwarzenegger’s records on Nov. 5 just days after voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 59, a constitutional amendment requiring judges to interpret state law broadly for access to documents and narrowly on efforts to withhold them. Schwarzenegger, who pledged more open government during his campaign last year, actively supported the measure.

Rich McKee, president of Californians Aware, another advocate of open government, said the governor’s decision will have a broad effect on how other elected officials share their schedules with the public.

“There are certainly some legitimate concerns about releasing information about what the governor does and where he goes, just from a security standpoint,” McKee said. “But when the governor stands up and says ‘I’m willing to be more open,’ that gives notice to elected officials at all other levels.”

Siggins said some information about Schwarzenegger’s schedule and appointments would be withheld, including interviews with job applicants and information subject to attorney-client or attorney-work product privileges. Travel information that Siggins said could compromise the governor’s security will also be withheld.

The First Amendment Coalition recognized in its request that some records might not be available.

The group had promised to sue Schwarzenegger if he didn’t make the records public under Proposition 59.

By Jim Wasserman