San Francisco task force says state attorney general candidate violated public records act

San Francisco’s Sunshine Ordinance Task Force found that San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris’s office violated the the city’s open records law when it failed to release public records requested by Steve Cooley, her opponent in the race for attorney general. -db

San Francisco Chronicle
October 30, 2010
By Marisa Lagos

San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris’ office violated local sunshine laws by failing to release internal documents requested by the campaign of her GOP opponent in the race for attorney general, a local advisory task force determined this week.

San Francisco’s Sunshine Ordinance Task Force, which advises the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on matters relating to the city’s open-government laws, found Tuesday that Harris’ office had violated open-government laws by failing to turn over public records requested by the campaign of Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley.

Task force chairman Richard Knee said the group will now direct Harris’ office to fix the problem and, if it does not, may turn its findings over to the city’s Ethics Commission.

The Cooley campaign filed a public records request with the San Francisco district attorney’s office June 29, asking for a list of internal documents such as office budgets, workplace-related complaints filed against Harris, phone records, salary and per diem expenses, office calendars, security detail information and e-mail records from 1998 to present.

To date, the Cooley campaign has received only three things from the office: travel expenses, office budgets and a list of all office employees and their titles.

Cooley campaign spokesman Kevin Spillane called it outrageous that Harris’ office has yet to release all the information the campaign requested. He threatened a lawsuit.

“Kamala Harris complies with open-government laws about as well as she has handled the San Francisco crime lab scandal,” said Spillane, referring to the Police Department’s lab scandal, which began last winter when it was alleged that a veteran technician had skimmed drug evidence.

The scandal led to revelations that Harris’ office failed in its legal obligation to turn over to defense attorneys any information that could be used to attack the credibility of witnesses, including the disciplinary records of police officers. The breakdown put hundreds of felony convictions in jeopardy.

“The public has a right to know what she’s trying to hide,” Spillane said.

Erica Terry Derryck, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco district attorney’s office, said the office has been complying with the request and had already handed over more than 100 pages of documents. She said the remaining documents have not been released because it is taking time to identify everything in the “voluminous” request.

Derryck said the office asked the task force for additional time but members denied the request, citing the fact that the election was so close.

The Harris campaign was busy Friday filing a complaint of its own: It seized on a Chronicle story that detailed how Cooley has failed to report thousands of dollars worth of gifts over the past seven years. Her campaign – which provided the documents to The Chronicle – filed a complaint late Thursday with the Fair Political Practices Commission asking the agency to levy fines against the Republican district attorney.

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