City Manager Opposes Abusive Library Patron’s PRA Request

A woman has been waging war with the city, emailing reams of records requests punctuated with verbal abuse. A memo going to the Rules and Open Government Committee on Wednesday instructs Karen Mou's record requests on public libraries to be denied.

“You are so jealous about me being smarter, slender, better and younger looking and/or more educated than you,” she wrote staffers at Martin Luther King Jr. Library, according to public documents.

"You need to stop using your very large body size to harass …” Mou wrote another time. “You might want to get your IQ tested to see if your IQ is as high as mine.”

Sounds like she'd fit right in with some of our beloved commenters.

In other pejorative, caps lock-heavy epistles, she called a librarian a “BIG, STUPID, FAT BULLY,” “FAT SUPID AND EVIL” and worse.

The correspondence popped up on this week’s Rules agenda, when the city manager recommended denying for the umpteenth time her misguided records requests.

“I am aware of an incident … when you referred to an employee as a ‘bitch,’ 'fucking bitch,’ and that your concerns were ‘none of [her] goddamned business;’ and another incident … when you called an employee a ‘fucking liar’ and threw city property [signs] to the ground forcefully enough that the crashing was heard through multiple closed office doors,” City Manager Ed Shikada writes.

(On a side note, Shikada has probably never written these words on city letterhead, so forgive him if he seems to be relishing it a bit.)

The spat started months ago when library workers found Mou arranging toilet seat covers in some incongruous part of the building and using other patrons’ library cards. Mou then started asking the city for records on library employees, patron suspensions, work schedules and other documents. To date, the city granted her more than 1,000 pages of documents, but has had a tough time interpreting many of her queries.

More from the San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee for June 11, 2014:

  • It turns out those expansive windows in several urban high rises threaten the local avian population. Birds fly into glass all the time—up to 1 billion a year die in North America after hurtling into windows and other structures, according to councilmembers Kansen Chu and Sam Liccardo. They say the city should factor in bird safety as it considers plans for new development. It’s a fine balance, though, since the same wide windows that let in natural light and reduce electricity bills are a death knell for unsuspecting birds.
  • Lisa Taitano, one of two city employee members of the Federated Retirement Board, left for a job in Cupertino. Now the city needs to facilitate an election for her replacement.
  • Pierluigi Oliverio thinks the city should make all union negotiations public. In 2010, residents voted to make arbitration meetings open to anyone, to put them on the public record. “I believe we should follow that example, and allow voters to do the same for union negotiations,” he writes in a memo. And, no, this will never happen. At least not in this administration.
  • Taking a cue from Santa Clara County, the city may explore the idea of forming a wage theft task force. Councilman Ash Kalra says that even though San Jose voters upped the minimum wage in 2012 to $10 an hour, more than 300 workers every month file enforcement complaints alleging their employers cheated them out of their fair earnings. From 2012-13, 2,000 workers who filed claims in San Jose were awarded $8.4 million. That’s an average of nearly $5,000 per workers—a quarter of their annual income. But only one-third of that $8.4 million has been collected. A wage theft policy would give workers more recourse, Kalra says.
  • At the urging of environmental groups, the city will look at forming a downtown parks district funded by developer fees.

WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Despite her abusive language, Ms. Mou may have legitimate public records requests. However, your article spoke only of her cursing, and not a syllable about the content of her requests. The new reporting, Ms Wadsworth–ignore the substance and report on the form?

    • The entire content of Ms. Mou’s rantings and conduct can be viewed by the link Jenn W cited.

      You are most welcome to attend the “Rules and Open Government Committee” meeting this afternoon, the meeting starts promptly at 1400 hours. If you want to speak on this issue, fill out a “Request to Speak Card (they are yellow in color), in the upper right-hand corner of the card mark “Item I,” turn the card into the Deputy City Clerk, sit down, enjoy the show, then when Mayor Reed or Vice-Mayor Nugyen calls your name-you have two (2) minutes to speak your opinion on the matter.

      I am going to support the denial of Ms. Mou’s request at “Rules” this afternoon and continuance of other sanctions.

      The “Request for Public Record Information” system at the City of San Jose operates in “Good Faith” and decisions to deny a request are governed by a set of “rules and procedures” adopted by Council and the State of California. Mayor Reed, to his credit, is a “Champion of Open Government and Transparency.” Denials are very higly scrutinized.

      Our city employees, specifically Library employees in the aforementioned case, should not be subjected to conduct which creates a “Hostile Work Environment.”

      Thank-you for your position to ensure the legitimacy of “Public Records Requests.” Citizens must stay eternally vigilant in all matters concerniing our government.

      Good reporting Jenn W.

      David S. Wall

  2. Hello, BEMUSED365.

    In paragraph 7 of this article, if you click on “City Manager Ed Shikada writes” you’ll see the content of Ms Mou’s requests. I think Ms Wadsworth included that link so we can see for ourselves what Ms Mou said in her emails.

  3. Just curious who among our “beloved commenters” Jennifer thinks would “fit right in” with this foul mouthed termagant.

  4. For those interested, review the digital recording of today’s “Rule & Open Government Committee” meeting (06.11.14) and view Item I and the Open Forum. You will get to see and hear Ms. Mou’s testimony.

    Ms. Mou’s request for “Public Record Information” for issues concerning alleged employee disciplinary action (and for documents that do not exist) was summariliy “Rejected and Denied” for ” legal and reasonable cause.”

    David S. Wall

  5. ….and hopefully will never again, Jennifer, as my kids may one day find articles like this in a metasearch.

    Thanks to all for standing up for decorum. We may vigorously agree or disagree on issues and expectations, but no one should be subjected to abuse. This includes Mr, Wall ;-)

    • As a City Manger you should show better leadership and a thicker skin. Reading blogs and responding to justify your actions is weak.

  6. Thanks for the link. Ms. Mou certainly seems abusive, and she has been denied access to the library for 6 months. Perhaps another six months is warranted.

    However, I do not believ her CPRA requests can be denied because she is abusive. She can, however, be charged for the research time and copy costs, which may quell her ardor.

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