Copyright 2004, Associated Press
Associated Press article on CFAC records request
(Associated Press 11/6/04) — Only days after California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 59 to increase the public’s ability to inspect government records, a media-backed group is asking Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to release all his appointment calendars, schedules and meeting logs since taking office Nov. 17.
The California First Amendment Coalition, a group of journalists and civic activists formed in 1988, mailed the request to Schwarzenegger on Wednesday, the day Proposition 59 took effect in the state’s constitution. The move represents an opening salvo among Proposition 59 supporters, who are urging aggressive requests statewide for government records from the state, schools, cities, counties and special districts.
The San Rafael-based coalition appealed to Schwarzenegger for the records based on his endorsement of Tuesday’s ballot measure, a constitutional change that requires judges to interpret state law broadly for access to documents and meetings — and narrowly on efforts to withhold or restrict them.
With no organized opposition, it passed with 83 percent support.
“CFAC respectfully encourages the governor, in responding to this records request, to explain publicly that he is disclosing the asked-for records because of a change in the law created by Prop. 59,” the CFAC letter states.
An aide to the governor said the Schwarzenegger administration hadn’t seen the letter Friday and would have no comment.
CFAC Executive Director Peter Scheer said the request “will be of huge interest to historians, to journalists who cover politics and the governor in Sacramento. It will be suggestive of what special interests have the governor’s ear and how much access they have and what issues mean most to them.”
The public-records request, which requires a response from the governor within 10 days, is the first act in a process that promises lawsuits and court challenges if the governor denies it. Among Proposition 59′s goals is reversal of a 1991 California Supreme Court ruling that barred the Los Angeles Times from obtaining similar records from former Gov. George Deukmejian between 1983 and 1988. The court’s decision was based on a “deliberative process privilege,” which argued that releasing schedules, appointments calendars and meeting logs could “chill” decision-making in the executive office.
It said public access to such documents could also curb input to the governor by causing people and groups to avoid meeting with the governor if those meetings would be publicly disclosed.
That decision made the governor’s schedules and calendars exempt from the 1968 California Public Records Act. It also held that the “public interest in not disclosing the records clearly outweighs the state’s public interest in disclosure.”
Five years later, a California appeals court cited the same argument to deny a similar Times request for records from Gov. Pete Wilson regarding his appointment of an Orange County supervisor.
Scheer called the 1991 ruling misguided and said the exemption has been used ever since to block access to records and many different kinds of information. In September, Scheer’s group sued the California Public Employees Retirement System to force disclosure of how much it pays venture capitalists to manage its money. CalPERS rejected a written request under the state’s public-records act.
By Jim Wasserman