FAC joins environmental access suit against Marin County

PETER SCHEER– FAC has joined a lawsuit against Marin County concerning an environmental dispute over  Coho salmon. Environmentalist David Schnapf filed the CPRA suit last year, seeking records about the county’s adoption of an ordinance mandated by a countywide conservation plan. Although the 2013 measure was supposed to protect salmon flows, Schnapf and other critics say it is more protective of property owners than endangered fish.

The controversial ordinance never took effect because of an unusual “poison pill” provision requiring the law’s suspension in the event of legal challenges. Sure enough, an environmental group went to court, thus triggering the suspension of the ordinance. The poison pill, plus other language weakening the original draft, were inserted during closed-door meetings of a two-person subcommittee of Marin’s supervisors.

The CPRA requests focus on the decisions of this subcommittee and the supervisors’ adoption of the proposed ordinance. The county has refused to make public some 65 documents that it claims are exempt from the CPRA. The county claims that most of the documents are privileged under the attorney-client privilege or the deliberative process privilege.

Although FAC is not a partisan in the environmental debate about salmon, we believe that that debate should be conducted in an open and transparent process, and that it should be informed with all relevant information and records. FAC views this as a test case about access to information concerning legislative choices.

FAC and Schnapf are both represented by San Francisco attorney Karl Olson. The case is Schnapf v. County of Marin in the Marin County Superior Court.