Public Record Request Uncovers 14,000 Emails Hidden From the Public
Many times Public Record Requests are the only way to find out what is going on behind the scenes especially when your topic is Modesto politicians and you’re discussing City business. They aren’t a tell all, yet sometimes a glimpse of light slips through. Recently we discovered that Cecil Russell and his Chateau Provence Home Owners Association, with the help of Rank Security, had illegally mounted cameras on city light poles and were stealing electricity from MID.
Now using the same method we’ve uncovered 6 private email accounts that the Mayor and members of the City Council are using to conduct city business. At first we were told that it was probably just a few emails and they were mostly about meetings. But they didn’t realize we already had in our possession emails to and from Modesto Mayor Ted Brandvold and land use attorney George Petrulakis.
So we did a Public Record Request on the six emails. The scope was from the time each had taken office until present. Never did I expect the response I received via email.
Regarding your Public Record Request of March 8, 2017 for all emails since taking office, including attachments to and from: 3 from Ted Brandvold, 2 from Bill Zoslocki and 1 from Tony Madrigal. (the actual email addresses have been redacted)
Our IT Department is working on this to pull all the emails, however they have gotten over 14,000 hits on this request.
Is there any way we can narrow this request? Are you looking for something specific that we can narrow with some keywords? Perhaps we can narrow the time frame?
If you can let me know as soon as possible, I can let IT know how to proceed with your request.
Administrative Office Assistant III (Confidential)
City Clerk’s Office
Since then we’ve learned of even more email addresses being used.
Modesto seems to be admitting every single Public Record Request made by us and others in the last several years is incomplete. And now we’re told the city will NOT be going back and supplementing the requests. They are telling the very people that withheld the information by using private accounts to ‘police’ themselves. Only one member of the Council, Kristi Ah You, has stepped up to the plate and placed her emails up for review.
No guidance has been given other that the term ‘city business’. And as City Attorney’s staff has pointed out there is currently NO policy or requirement that Mayor, Council members or city staff use ONLY their government email accounts for city business. And who had his hand in (wrote the majority) from the beginning when the Modesto City Charter was written? Why George Petrulakis of course. If you want the rules to favor you, you write the rules.
We always need to keep in mind that the title of City Attorney is misleading. His title should be Mayor and Council’s attorney because in my opinion he works against the public’s best interest. He liberally uses Brown Acts exemption clauses and with his silence on other aspects advises them on how to avoid the Brown Act and the best way to mitigate the damage if they are caught. He should be firmly suggesting to them they need to use ONLY City email accounts and City cell phones.
What or should I say how much are they trying to hide?
Maybe it’s time to go after their text messages too.
Informative article printed in the Bee today from the Orange County Register