Court Finds Former San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and City Violated Public Records Act

Liccardo’s Search for Official Business in Personal Text Messages and Email Account Found Deficient

August 30, 2023


San Jose – The City of San Jose and its former Mayor Sam Liccardo violated the California Public Records Act by failing to adequately search through Liccardo’s personal emails and texts, a court ruled Tuesday in an order that affirms allegations brought by the First Amendment Coalition and San José Spotlight in a 2022 lawsuit.

“This order is a complete vindication of our dogged efforts to hold the city of San Jose and former Mayor Liccardo accountable,” said Ramona Giwargis, co-founder and CEO of San José Spotlight. “Government cannot operate in the shadows, and public officials should not and cannot conduct stealth government through texts on their private phones, as Mayor Liccardo tried to do. We hope this is a wake-up call to the city councilmembers and Mayor Matt Mahan to conduct business openly, as they should.”

FAC and San José Spotlight filed suit on February 3, 2022 to shed light on Liccardo’s use of personal email and text messages to do city business. The lawsuit details how Liccardo directed a constituent to contact him on a personal email account to skirt public records laws. “I’m going to delete this email from my government account,” Liccardo wrote to the constituent, according to documents obtained and published by San José Spotlight.

The lawsuit forced the city to release documents covered by the PRA requests in October 2022 and March 2023. In July, the court ordered disclosure of more documents and questioned whether the city and Liccardo made an adequate search of his personal texts and emails. It ordered Liccardo and a city staffer to declare in detail under penalty of perjury “the procedures they used for searching Liccardo’s private email and text message accounts” and “the training they have received on separating public records and private communications.” 

Today’s decision in response to those declarations found the city and former mayor failed “to set forth in detail the procedures they followed to locate the records requested by the Petitioners.” “Instead, they report only their general practices. . . They say nothing about what they did to search Liccardo’s private email and text message accounts.”

San José Spotlight is represented by Karl Olson and Aaron Field of the law firm Cannata, O’Toole, Fickes & Olson. The First Amendment Coalition is represented by legal director David Loy, legal fellow Khrystan Policarpio and executive director David Snyder.

Today’s decision and other legal documents and more information about the lawsuit can be found here: