I’d like to give major kudos to the Calaveras Enterprise and reporter Claudette Langley for pushing for records to be made public and then reporting on the outcome. You can read Claudette’s story here.
I’m especially impressed because this is a local newspaper in San Andreas, Calif., which publishes about 6,000 copies every Tuesday and Friday morning. It proves that you don’t need to be a reporter at a huge daily newspaper to get things done and hold public officials accountable.
According to her story, the newspaper and Calaveras County officials had a difference of opinion last June after the paper asked for a list of the salaries and benefits of appointed and elected officials. (Every newspaper and TV station from the east to west coast should be requesting these kinds of records!)
The county’s HR director told the paper that it must submit a formal, written public records request in order to receive the information, according to the story. However, the California Public Records law states that a verbal request is sufficient.
While the HR director’s response might not seem that bad, it shows a lack of understanding about the law, which can be frustrating to reporters doing their jobs. It also slows down the process of getting records in a timely manner.
To the county’s credit, its board of supervisors plans to discuss the public records law and possibly approve a new Public Records Act policy at its meeting next week. The policy would “act as a guide for inexperienced responders,” according to the article.
I sincerely hope that the county approves the policy, which could be beneficial in two ways. It would help reporters who are simply doing their jobs, and it would also educate county staff about the law. I look forward to reading an update about this on Calaveras Enterprise’s Web site next week. Keep up the good work out there in California!