Transparency organization wins ‘total victory’ in Lynwood records case

For Immediate Release
April 26, 2016
California Policy Center
Contact: Will Swaim
Will@CalPolicyCenter.org
(949) 274-1911

SACRAMENTO  – The city of Lynwood will pay $22,000, part of a judge’s decision that city officials failed to disclose to the California Policy Center the names and salaries of Lynwood public employees.

You can read the April 22 judgment here.

CPC President Ed Ring declared the Los Angeles Superior Court judgment “a total victory for government transparency and the First Amendment.”

“In the back of every Californian’s mind is – or should be – the specter of Vallejo, Stockton and San Bernardino, cities driven into bankruptcy by reckless spending and excessive public-employee compensation,” said Ring. “The broader message in our legal win in is that vigilance alone isn’t enough. Without the threat of litigation, it seems, organizations like CPC and ordinary citizen watchdogs often haven’t got a prayer of seeing their city’s finances.”

CPC attorney Chad D. Morgan agreed, saying, “Unfortunately, the city refused to comply with the Public Records Act until CPC filed a lawsuit.”

The legal battle began in October 2014 when the public records were first requested. Nearly two months later, on December 2, Lynwood responded with a 2013 report that included job titles and compensation data but not employee names. The city dug in, refusing to release employee names.

In April 2015, CPC asked the superior court to step in. Months later, following a volley of demands and refusals for employee names and their compensation, Lynwood handed over two files. One of those was “a PDF file containing 146 pages listing 165 employee names, positions and information about each employee’s gross pay and benefits.” But the second file cast doubts on the first: it included compensation data for 250 positions – without names.

In his response to the release, Morgan pointed out the disparity and noted that “certain ‘lower-level’ positions” were missing from the second file. More alarming, the documents did not include the names of several executives and managers – including the city manager, council members, mayor, deputy city clerk, public information officer, and interim city manager.

Morgan wondered why the city spent so much time and money refusing to produce documents it was required to produce.

“The city’s refusal to provide the documents and subsequent delays caused us to incur $22,000 in legal fees to enforce the Public Records Act,” Morgan said. “This is in addition to whatever they paid their own outside counsel in defense of their frivolous attempt to conceal public records.”

McCune & Harber represented Lynwood.

ABOUT CHAD D. MORGAN
Chad Morgan represents the California Policy Center in matters related to the Public Records Act. As a public records attorney, Morgan has represented clients in litigation in courts throughout California. While still in law school, he served as chief of staff for a member of the state Legislature. Morgan is a graduate of Western State University College of Law and received his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from California State University, Fullerton.

ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA POLICY CENTER
The California Policy Center is a non-partisan public policy think tank providing information that elevates the public dialogue on vital issues facing Californians, with the goal of helping to foster constructive progress towards more equitable and sustainable management of California’s public institutions. Learn more at CaliforniaPolicyCenter.org.

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