The First Amendment Coalition and the Institute for Media and Public Trust of Fresno State today called on a California public official to apologize for insulting a reporter and to take seriously his obligations under open-government laws.
The letter to Tom Wheeler, a member of the Madera County Board of Supervisors, comes after Wheeler responded to a reporter’s public records request with, “To hell with her” followed by an insult. Wheeler’s email, documented in an image published by the reporter, the Fresno Bee’s Yesenia Amaro, was apparently intended for other public officials but inadvertently included Amaro.
FAC and the institute write that while the supervisor’s email was unwarranted and unprofessional, more concerning is “the contempt your email expresses for not only a free press but for the fundamental right of Californians to understand what their government is doing.”
Further, the joint letter to Wheeler says, “Your email suggests that because you have a disfavorable view of Ms. Amaro’s work as a journalist, the county should not respond to her valid request for records under the California Public Records Act and, if it does, it should charge her ‘our regular fees,’ suggesting the county should wield fees as a cudgel, punishing a reporter and her publication for the mere act of asking for records, which is their right (and the right of all people) under California law.”
Read the full letter below. And visit the website for Fresno State’s Institute for Media and Public Trust.
Update: Following our letter, Supervisor Wheeler issued an apology, which can be read in this Fresno Bee column.