Humboldt County is spending your tax dollars to prevent you from seeing how it’s spending your tax dollars.
The story so far, short version: The Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights filed a California Public Records Act request in December 2011 requesting information about pending litigation against the county related to land use, planning and the county’s general plan update, including the fees of outside attorneys who worked on the suits. The county, in HumCPR’s view, proved less than cooperative.
About one year ago, HumCPR filed a complaint in court, seeking the information.
The county has been wasting time — and money — ever since.
“Litigation strategy is revealed in the amounts expended to pursue or defend litigation,” reads the county’s legal reply to HumCPR’s complaint. The county would also like you to believe that what amounts to a bookkeeping request could somehow jeopardize its case, if taken out of context. Of course, any piece of information can be taken out of context, but that doesn’t stop the county from attempting to forge a chain of legal reasoning such as this:
“While it may be that Plaintiff is simply interested in good government, release of these records to Plaintiff is tantamount to release of the records to the world,” reads the county’s reply. “The potential mischief that could be done with this information — by someone attempting to influence an election, perhaps, or to influence
the course of the litigation — is not far fetched or unduly speculative.”
We’d have to disagree. Potential “mischief” is hardly a legal justification for exempting the information from a public records request.
State appellate courts already ruled on two similar cases last year, the most recent of which saw Los Angeles County lose its attempt to overturn a Superior Court order to turn over counsel billing and payment records in pending litigation. Neither time nor legal precedent is on Humboldt County’s side.
In addition to wasting taxpayers’ time, further county stonewalling is going to wind up wasting even more of taxpayer money. HumCPR has already rang up more than $64,000 in attorney fees and costs, and that number won’t get any smaller.
It doesn’t matter who’s asking the county for this information, or why. Under the law, this information belongs to all of us. It’s ours. It’s public money, spent by public officials. This is not a matter of international espionage. We are not the enemy. We are the public. The public has a right to know what public money is spent on, even as it’s being spent.
Humboldt County should release the facts before its overt lack google play store free download of transparency and disregard for its legal obligation to release public information costs the very taxpayers it purports to represent any more money — or any more faith in their public officials.
Humboldt County, release the numbers – A TIMES-STANDARD EDITORIAL
Posted: 02/10/2013 02:38:51 AM PST
Updated: 02/10/2013 02:38:51 AM PST
February 3, 2013 – A $64,000 question – Does the County have to disclose attorney fees?
February 21, 2013 – County will release records following high court decision