Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “meyers nave”

They Promised Effective, Responsive, and Transparent Government and This Is What They Gave Us

By Emerson Drake 

 

It’s a strange world we live in.

We made two Public Record Requests (PRR).  The object of the first one was to get information from the City of Modesto regarding how the City Attorney obfuscates the amounts Modesto pays for legal fees in general,  including those we have to pay to his firm, Meyers Nave. City Attorney Adam Lindgren had his para legal respond (see accompanying picture) by scrambling their response.  Adam took exception to my characterizing his response as ‘scrambled’ at the 8/13/19 Council meeting. We can only presume he prefers the term ‘randomizing.’

Each of these entries is him cannibalizing parts of budgets of other departments  to use for legal expenses. In other words he gets to spend other departments’ money for his legal costs without it being reflected against his office. He likes to say this has been an ongoing practice but this basically was initiated  soon after his firm took over as City Attorney.   So lets review…stealing from other department’s budgets for legal fees is a “past practice” that he started when he and his firm took over being City Attorney in 2013. He justifies it by simply calling it past practice.

Another interesting observation is that his department received the files in chronological order but as you can tell he made analyzing the costs more difficult by his, and we’ll use the term Adam apparently prefers here, ‘randomizing’ their response.  This picture is shown as an example of the technique he employed and not the information inside the files themselves.

His response to the he second PRR is more of his modus operandi (read method or technique). It was a simple request designed to discover when he knew Monica Houston brought the problem of purchasing property around Rt. 132 to light and when he recused himself from the discussion like an ethical attorney would.

Sent: Tuesday, July 16, 2019 4:10 PM
To: Stephanie Lopez; Dana Sanchez
Subject: Public Record Request
Ms. Lopez,
I would like all emails sent and received by Monica Houston during her time as Modesto’s City Auditor in chronological order (starting with the first through to the last). I would also like any schedule or meeting calendar of hers that might still be on your servers.
Thank you,
Emerson Drake
A straight forward, no guile,  just a simple request for information the public is entitled to by law.  His response should be seen to be appreciated.  In order to read the files you first have to download them.  The file itself is from Modesto City servers and is ‘untouched’ by human hands.  In other words the city is completely responsible for the contents and they can’t been altered by anyone else.
https://cityofmodesto.box.com/s/h4vf2kej05oty0wy4r64ef6pj4xrov1g   Their response of 2,470 pages has not one email that Ms. Houston generated.  The responses provided were agendas and conference invitations. This is what the City refers to as a rolling release and we can expect more releases in the future.
So that the Council members can’t deny they have either seen or ignored this response, I asked Kathy Espinsoza from the City of Modesto to forward the email response I received so the Council members wouldn’t have an excuse not to open the file.  The Gang of Four (Bill Zoslocki, Mani Grewal, Doug Ridenour, Jenny Kenoyer) controls the city right now.  Maybe they’ll approve of the response from the City Attorney and if they do, they’ll allow the cover-up to continue.  After all, he’s not only covering up for himself, he’s covering up for them, too.   We’ll find out Tuesday 9/3 at the city council meeting.
The following is the entire series of emails pertaining to the PRR. The latest is at the top and the original is at the bottom.  Read them and decide for yourselves if Adam Lindgren is being responsive to a citizen’s legal request or if he’s doing his best to delay things to keep himself and his cohorts out of trouble.

 

—–Original Message—–
From: Dana Sanchez <dasanchez@modestogov.com>

To: westernpalms@aol.com <westernpalms@aol.com>
Sent: Fri, Aug 9, 2019 3:24 pm
Subject: Public Records Request of July 16, 2019 Ref: 3194

Dear Mr. Drake,
This email is in response to your written request for public records received by the City on July 16, 2019.  We are treating your request as a request for public records in accordance with California Government Code Section 6250 and following (the California Public Records Act, or “the Act”).  The Act requires that public agencies make reasonably identified, non-exempt public records available for inspection or provide copies upon payment of the direct costs of duplication.
The City is required to notify you within ten (10) days whether the requested records will be disclosed.  (Gov. Code section 6253 (c)).  On July 26, 2019, the City notified you that we would need an additional 14 days to respond pursuant to Government Code section 6253(c). This response fulfills the City’s obligations under the Act.  Responsive, non-exempt public records have been recovered.  The City anticipates it will complete its review of these documents within the next few weeks, and will disclose these records to you in batches in a rolling release.
When the City makes the responsive records available to you, it will redact all information determined to be privileged or exempt from disclosure under the CPRA or other applicable law. These redactions will include, but not be limited to: (i) Government Code section 6254(c) (incorporating privacy exemptions found in the United States Constitution and Article 1, section 1 of the California Constitution), which exempts certain private information from disclosure where the release of such records would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy(ii) Government code section 6254(a), which allows for “preliminary drafts, notes, or interagency or intra-agency memoranda that are not retained…in the ordinary course of business” to be withheld when the public interest in withholding the records clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure; (iii) Government Code Section 6255 “deliberative process privilege,” implied by California courts from the “public interest exception.” Under this exemption, records containing information which could expose the public agency’s decision making process in such a way as to discourage candid discussion within the agency and undermine its ability to perform its functions are exempt from disclosure; (iv) provisions of the Evidence Code related to privilege.”  (Gov. Code § 6254(k).)  This provision incorporates records subject to Evidence Code section 954, which exempts lawyer-client communications from disclosure.  Government Code section 6254(k) also incorporates records subject to Code of Civil Procedure sections 2018.010 through 2018.030, which exempt attorney work product from disclosure. Records responsive to your request are being withheld according to these exemptions. Additionally, records responsive to your request are being withheld according to Government Code section 6254(b), which exempts from disclosure records pertaining to pending litigation or to claims made under the Government Claims Act until the pending litigation or claim has been finally adjudicated or settled; (v) Government Code section 6255 or “catch-all exemption”, which exempts records from disclosure where the public interest in nondisclosure clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
Below is the link to the first batch of your rolling release.  You will need to download the documents before you can view them.  Please note, this link will expire in 30 days.
If you have any questions about this matter, please contact me at dasanchez@modestogov.com, or by phone at (209) 577-5487.
Sincerely,
Dana Sanchez
Administrative Office Assistant III (Confidential)
City Clerk’s Office
1010 10th Street.  Suite 6600
Modesto, CA.  95354
(209) 577-5487
FINAL_LOGO_1a_S
Ref: 3194
From: westernpalms@aol.com [mailto:westernpalms@aol.com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 16, 2019 4:10 PM
To: Stephanie Lopez; Dana Sanchez
Subject: Public Record Request
Ms. Lopez,
I would like all emails sent and received by Monica Houston during her time as Modesto’s City Auditor in chronological order (starting with the first through to the last). I would also like any schedule or meeting calendar of hers that might still be on your servers.
Thank you,
Emerson Drake

The City Attorney, Adam Lindgren, Just Can’t Get It Right

By Emerson Drake  

When it comes to making important decisions that effect the public, City Attorney Adam Lindgren often falls more that just a bit short, personally it’s my opinion he fails miserably.

Back when the City Council was going through the Wood colony debacle Adam Lindgren interpreted case law to say  that signs could not be shown in the Council Chambers and anyone doing so could and would  be removed.  This was enforced throughout the meeting until a Modesto citizen, Gaetana Drake had the chance to speak.  She cited specific case law relating to Adam’s decision. After further review as they say, Adam changed his decision and signs, which had been ruled free speech by the courts,  were resentfully allowed to be displayed  accompanied by a cheer from the 200 plus attendees.  At another City Council meeting regarding Wood Colony the city had allowed people to speak and then significantly changed what they were going to be voting on.  At first they refused to allow people that had already spoken to address the change.  Then once again a Modesto citizen, Gaetana Drake, pointed out case law which specifically say they had to allow it to be addressed once they significantly changed the motion.  You would think this would be City Attorney 101.

Starting to see a pattern?  We’ve recently discussed the 14,000 emails the city wants to keep out of the public and they actually started making up new policy and law.  Here is part of a follow-up email from the City where they try to charge for processing the same emails they avoided using in Public Record Requests.

The City Clerk’s office also communicated with you and asked you to narrow the requests in a manner that describes identifiable records which may be located by City staff with reasonable efforts. You informed the City that you do not wish to narrow your requests. Without more focused requests, the City considers these requests to be overly burdensome and cannot process them any further, without further action on your part, for the reasons stated below. Should you wish to contact our office and narrow your requests, and/or submit a deposit as explained below, we will be more than happy to work with you to provide the information you seek.

The City has determined that where staff time and expense necessary to respond to such broad and voluminous requests is not reasonable, the public interest in not wasting taxpayer resources to process the request clearly outweighs any public interest to respond to such requests, particularly when no attempt by you has been made focus the requests.  (Gov. Code section 6255; American Civil Liberties Union Foundation v. Deukmejian 32 Cal.3d 440, at 452-453.)

In order to begin processing this request, the City requires a $250.00 deposit, as printing and data extraction time (10 cents per page) is necessary to ensure that privileged, private, or personnel-related exempt records are not released in violation of the law.  Upon remittance of the deposit, the first 2,500 pages will be reviewed and then all non-exempt public records from those pages will be available for your inspection.  Additional deposits would be required to continue processing this request.

So in effect the City Attorney Adam Lindgren want $1,400 to process the 14,000 emails he should have been including all along in Public Record Requests. $1,400 in data extraction time?  And if the money isn’t paid in advance they processing of emails would stop!

It’s not only illegal  it’s unethical and more importantly it isn’t what the law says.    When we started this Public Record Request(PPR) for the private emails the Council has been using we were told the total email numbers were probably few and the topics inconsequential.  If, when they say a few, they mean 14,000 you have to wonder what inconsequential means.

But there’s more:  The 14,000 emails are only those on the City’s servers. Any emails sent from private email accounts to private email accounts are NOT included in the 14,000, and the city refuses to supply the email addresses saying the Council members will be given guidelines to follow and they will be going through their own emails to see what is relevant and what isn’t.

So the Mayor and Council that claim to be completely transparent and yet are using private email accounts, to conduct city business, are now going to police themselves?

Most reasonable people if asked would say that’s inconceivable. And to borrow a line from the Princess Bride, I don’t think that word means what you think it means,  especially when it comes to Modesto politics.

Post Navigation