In the Moser case, Judge Oliver Wanger ordered Lozano Smith law firm in Fresno, California to take ethics training. Did they ever take the training? If so, it didn't take. Lozano Smith lawyers seem to be using the same old tactics on behalf of school districts.
Audit Sting May Have Led to Censorship Try
A recent audit of 18 Sacramento area public education institutions organized by Californians Aware (CalAware) shows serious ignorance of citizens' rights to public information—and may have prompted an attempt to censor the student journalists who conducted it.
On March 24, 11 journalism students from Sacramento State University on the staff of the student newspaper, The State Hornet, walked into the main offices of 14 school districts and charter schools, the Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools, the Los Rios Community College District, Sacramento State and the University of California, Davis.
They asked for copies of the statements of financial interest (Form 700s) filed by key elected and staff officers, which are required to be made public—no questions asked—within two days of the request, pursuant to the Political Reform Act of 1974. They also mailed letters to the institutions with a list of requests to see other public records as required by the California Public Records Act.
The resulting audit scoring deducted points not only for failing to produce the records at all or within the laws' deadlines, but for requiring the auditors to disclose their full names, affiliations, or purpose for asking, or to fill out a written form. Auditors also rated the agencies for the courtesy and helpfulness of the employees receiving the in-person request for the Form 700s—even if they were unaware of their legal obligations.
But after The State Hornet published its audit summary yesterday, News Editor Chloe Daley was called into the office of Associate Vice President for Public Affairs Gloria Moraga, where, Daley has told CalAware, Moraga questioned her closely about the purpose of the audit, suggesting that the number of records sought placed an unreasonable burden on the campus and was journalistically irresponsible.
Late yesterday the following e-mail message was sent to student auditor Mitchell Wilson, who had requested records from the Elk Grove Unified Schoo District, by an attorney with the district's law firm.
--- On Wed, 4/22/09, Sloan R. Simmons wrote:
From: Sloan R. Simmons
Subject: Public Records Act Request to Elk Grove Unified School District (1336/01)
Date: Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 4:31 PM
Consistent with my voice message from this afternoon, we
have been informed that Mr. Gonzales has requested that all
students withdrawal their Public Records Act requests
submitted in relation to a course at Sacramento State
University and that the article relating to information
sought in such requests has already been published in the
Sac State Hornet newspaper. It is our understanding that
your records requests is pursuant to this activity and
As soon as possible, please confirm to me via telephone or
in response to this message whether you are withdrawing your
Public Records Act request so that I can direct District
staff to cease efforts relating to responding to your
A T T O R N E Y S A T L A W
Partnering For Excellence In Education and Government
[Maura Larkins note: Is this a typo:? Did Mr. Simmmons intend to write, "Partnering for Exceptions In Education and Government (to any and all laws that conflict with the personal agendas of school officials)"?]
Sloan R. Simmons
One Capitol Mall, Suite 640 | Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-329-7433 | Fax: 916-329-9050
The records sought in the audit were selected, and the student auditors trained, by CalAware, a Carmichael-based nonprofit group supporting open government which in the past four years has provided similar leadership in Public Records Act compliance audits of Fresno area agencies, 31 selected state agencies, and more than 200 state and local law enforcement agencies.
To see analysis by Terry Francke, click HERE.