California open government roundup: San Francisco ponders move to open-source voting system

San Francisco is studying whether to use open-source software for voting. Some claim that open-source systems will provide increased control, transparency and security as programmers will  be able to assess the voting system before election day to spot bugs and suggest changes. The public will also know more about how votes are tallied. Private vendors of voting machines understandably keep details of the operation secret. (San Francisco Chronicle, September 3, 2017, by Dominic Fracassa)

A recent audit revealed that the San Jose city government needs to improve its open government profile by processing public records requests more expeditiously, publishing details of council members’ calendars and disclosing the effects of public subsidies. The city stumbled in observing the Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law in 2015 but has not had any recent mishaps. (The San Jose Mercury News, September 11, 2017, by Ramona Giwargis)

A Superior Court judge found that the Palos Verde Peninsula school board violated the Brown Act in 2016 in a public skirmish over a now defunct contract to install solar panels in 16 district schools. Citizens claimed that in not listing the decision to cancel the contract in any agenda, the district had violated the Brown Act. (The Daily Breeze, September 11, 2017, by Cynthia Washicko)

In a political imbroglio, a law firm hired by the county sanitation district board found no Brown Act violations by Arroyo Grande Mayor Jim Hill. Hill’s attorney criticized the law firm for not interviewing Hill and for making allegations in the report that Hill erred in sharing a confidential e-mail and discussing personnel issues. (Cal Coast Times, September 9, 2017, by Karen Velie)

The California legislature passed a bill to strengthen the California Public Records Act but failed to include a provision to allow courts to assess penalties against agencies blocking public right to information. (Electronic Frontier Foundation, September 7, 2017, by Dave Maass)

The San Diego Water Authority is contesting a lawsuit that will allow public access to alleged private meetings held by the authority. The lawsuit cites a number of unrecorded and unnoticed meetings by water authority delegates to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. (The San Diego Union-Tribune, September 1, 2017, by James DeHaven)

A director of the San Lorenzo Valley Water District is asking the Santa Cruz County Grand Jury to investigate the district’s board and staff. The director Bill Smallman has been at odds with the rest of the directors after he unseated an incumbent in 2016, on many occasions claiming that his fellow directors were violating the Brown Act. (Press Banner, August 31, 2017, by Barry Holtzclaw)

Despite a 2015 California law that requires cities and counties to create guidelines posted online for using mass surveillance stingray devices, law enforcement agencies have yielded little information about their use of the technology. The law also requires agencies to ask for approval to buy the devices in public meetings. Despite the legislation  only nine out of 21 agencies with stingrays published online policies. (Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2107, by Jazmine Ulloa)