Sunday, July 21, 2024

Mendocino County’s Board of Supervisors Repeals Controversial Public Records Fee Ordinance


The following is a press release issued by the First Amendment Coalition:

Left to Right, Top Row) Supervisor John Haschak, Supervisor Dan Gjerde, and Supervisor Ted Williams, (Left to Right, Bottom Row) Chair Glenn McGourty and Vice-Chair Maureen Mulheren [Picture from the County of Mendocino website]

Today the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to repeal Ordinance No. 4507, which authorized the county to charge as much as $150/hour for staff time to locate, review, or redact documents people asked for under the California Public Records Act. The law, passed last July, received widespread condemnation from the public, journalists, and open government advocates. One local media organization, the Mendocino Voice, has been assessed fees in excess of $76,000 since the law was passed.

Mendocino was not the only county in California with an ordinance allowing illegal fees to be charged for public information. According to research by the  First Amendment Coalition and the ACLU of Northern California, seven other counties — Los Angeles, Shasta, Siskiyou, Calaveras, Tuolumne, Santa Cruz, and Ventura — have passed similar laws. 

The following can be attributed to David Loy, Legal Director, First Amendment Coalition:

“We’re glad the board of supervisors repealed this law. Public records belong to everyone no matter how wealthy. Democracy depends on freedom of information, but information is not public when only the rich can afford it. We hope other counties with similar laws will listen to the public and abolish these undemocratic laws.”

The following can be attributed to Chessie Thacher, Senior Staff Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California: 

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“It’s good to see that Mendocino finally did the right thing after starting off in the wrong direction. This ordinance should never have been enacted, and the ACLU and FAC–joined by others in the community–were poised to challenge it. The government must provide public information to everyone with as few barriers as possible. When the government doesn’t do that, we have problems with access and equity.” 

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  1. The truth is, we live in a golden age of transparency by local governments. People no longer need to drive to a City Hall or the County Administration Center in Ukiah to pick up paper copies of meeting agenda packets; local governments post the entire agenda packets for free online (with hundreds of pages of supporting documents, posted days before meetings take place, with information remaining online for years). People no longer need to pay for cable television to watch local government meetings; videos of meetings are streamed live (and archived) by the local governments for anyone to watch for free online.
    Does everyone know how to find all this information online? Probably not. That’s why in Tuesday’s meeting, board members discussed the idea of promoting County libraries as a free resource to help members of the public more easily find this information online.
    Sorry if I fail to see local government’s “information glass” as half-empty. Compared with the past, it looks mighty full.

    • Looks a lot like a Straw Man deflection here.
      The actual problem and controversy was the $150/hr staff time fee for records requests, not the level in some mythical “information glass”. As noted in the article, Mendocino County was uniquely wrong and out-of-step with that ordinance. The “comprehension glass” could apparently use a refill.

    • Dan
      Kate Maxwell explained it to you very clearly yesterday. If the information was easily accessible, then Mendocino county would be able to find the information and show the public where it is. If what you say is true, During a public records request the county should be able to generate this information very easy without it costing $75k.
      I’m glad you are retiring Dan you do not represent the inland 4th district at all. You won’t even return Phone calls to your constituents.

    • In a short paragraph you have single handedly proved to the people of Mendocino County that it is a good thing you’re retiring. Voters have a problem paying for something that should be free. Instead you geniuses think charging people will decrease requests because you have come accustom to do nothing and get paid for it. You even tried to make it optional to attend Board Meetings through Zoom, right Basement Dan. You will now ride off into the sunset known for one of the five Supervisors who destroyed the finances of the County. Why don’t you tell people the real story behind claiming the County is near bankruptcy? Is Bowtie Ted upset at McGourty and you for leaving him high and dry? Were you and Bowtie Ted the masterminds behind the get Chamise Cubbison plan? Everyone knew your dislike for Ms.Cubbison.

      I look forward to Basement Dan’s answers to my questions. I don’t expect him to answer them because of his past performance of ignoring things when it gets tough.
      Folks, the plan he does not want to talk about is how Bowtie Ted, Carmel and him wanted to have control over County finances and create a Director of Finance position, which they would hire and fire. McGourty jumped because he too liked the idea. To do this they need the voters to pass a measure that would get rid of two elected positions. First combine the positions of Treasurer/ Tax Collector and Auditor/Controller. Knowing that current TTC Shari Schapmire was retiring and her Assistant Julie Forrester would probably not run for election. They knew Julie did not agree with combining the offices as did Shari Schapmire who wrote an email explaining the risks of doing so. Chamise Cubbison ran unopposed for the newly combined office. Ms. Cubbison was known for being a very hard worker but didn’t sugarcoat things. So here is the final straw of the plan, falsely create financial ruin and publicly shame Ms. Cubbison. Blame her for anything and everything. Why does D’Arcy Antle sit quietly when Cubbison is being questioned? Antle was Carmel’s right hand person in charge of, wait, wait, budgets. She sits there quietly because the attacks on Cubbison should be directed at her.


  2. So how do I use public information requests to bring the county to a grinding halt? Anybody have hot tips? What kind of things should I ask for?


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MendoFever Staff
MendoFever Staff
Editor's Note: Whenever an article's byline reads "MendoFever Staff", the contents of that article were not composed by any of our reporters. Types of writing that will be attributed to "MendoFever Staff" include press releases, letters to the editor, op-eds, obituaries— essentially writing that is not produced by a reporter.

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