A&A: Why did one county deny a PRA request that most others quickly fulfill?

Q: I am trying to request information on a backflow test device report forms from each city in the county. Many cities have already complied however a few are citing the code 6254.16 in the CPRA because the backflow device usually has a meter connected and is over seen by the water or public works department in each city. My understanding of section 6254.16 is exempting personal home addresses and phone numbers. The forms I am requesting do not have personal home addresses or phone numbers but are from local business’s in the area. Here is what I sent:


RE: Public Records Request

Dear City Clerk,

Pursuant to the California Public Records Act (Government Code Section 6250 et seq.), I hereby formally request to obtain a copy the following, which I understand to be held by your agency:  All Backflow Prevention Device and Maintenance Report Forms executed from 6/1/2012 to 8/31/2012

This is the reply from the attorney (after informing me that they would have the records ready by Friday 5/31/13 they sent this on 5/30/13)

Concerning your request for public records. Your request for records is specifically exempt from production pursuant to Government Code section 6254.16. Please let me know if you have any questions.

A: Govt. Code section 6254.16 provides that:

6254.16. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require the disclosure of the name, credit history, utility usage data, home address, or telephone number of utility customers of local agencies, except that disclosure of name, utility usage data, and the home address of utility customers of local agencies shall be made available upon request as follows:

(a) To an agent or authorized family member of the person to whom the information pertains.

(b) To an officer or employee of another governmental agency when necessary for the performance of its official duties.

(c) Upon court order or the request of a law enforcement agency relative to an ongoing investigation.

(d) Upon determination by the local agency that the utility customer who is the subject of the request has used utility services in a manner inconsistent with applicable local utility usage policies.

(e) Upon determination by the local agency that the utility customer who is the subject of the request is an elected or appointed official with authority to determine the utility usage policies of the local agency, provided that the home address of an appointed official shall not be disclosed without his or her consent.

(f) Upon determination by the local agency that the public interest in disclosure of the information clearly outweighs the public interest in nondisclosure.

Unfortunately, I do not know enough about the backflow prevention device and maintenance report forms to know if they are comprised solely of the information covered by section 6254.16. If they are, then the exemption will apply. Otherwise, if the forms merely contain some of the information that is exempt, the exempt information can be redacted and then the remainder of the record must be disclosed to you.

You may want to write back to the agencies that are asserting the exemption and explain to them how the specific information you seek is not the type covered by the exemption, or that even if it is, that, pursuant to subsection (f) the public interest in disclosure clearly outweighs the public interest in nondisclosure.

Bryan Cave LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation.