Government Transparency Suffers Amid Pandemic

Santa Clara has joined a growing list of government bodies that are putting public records requests on the back burner amid the coronavirus outbreak. California cities have been stripping down to essential functions during the statewide lockdown—a move that rained blows on government transparency.

While Santa Clara isn’t issuing straight-up denials like Fresno, Mission City mouthpiece Lenka Wright tells Fly that the county’s stay-the-heck-home fiat has impacted its “ability to respond in the same manner it did prior to the pandemic.”

“Due to only providing essential services, the city has limited staffing across all departments to process these requests” she says.

Wright added that Santa Clara has responded to 27 requests since the order was enacted in mid-March. But First Amendment advocates say Wright’s excuse isn’t good enough.

“Government Code Section 6250 states that access to records ‘is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state,”’ Glen Smith, a legal fellow at the First Amendment Coalition (FAC), tells Fly. “This right is reinforced by Article 1, section 3(b) of the California Constitution. The city’s determination that access to records is not essential is contrary to the law.”

The FAC has recently joined forces with a number of pro-transparency including the Society of Professional Journalists and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to fight the baseless denials. “The public’s right of access remains and is crucial in times of crisis,” the group wrote in a recent release. “Just as the government’s power is at its apex during a crisis, the importance of the public’s right to know how their government is wielding that power could not be greater.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that Santa Clara has found itself in hot water over public records. Last year, a county civil grand jury blasted the city for bucking rules related to responding to requests in a timely fashion.

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13 Comments

  1. I am not surprised by this, and I do think Santa Clara deserves a little slack due to the pandemic. However, if you read a certain blog in Santa Clara done by a guy sitting in his underwear, you read how he gets all of his requests honored. Why? Well, the City Attorney is a frequent poster. Doyle claims it is on his time, no no doubt when he is sitting around in his underwear. Same blog is notoriously filled with racist comments. It is fair to expect a little delay, but when you see one guy boast about his special treatment it gives you cause.

    • .
      Could you give us a few hints?

      The last guy ran “The Mission City Slattern,” but he got shut down seven years ago in a libel suit (SCC Superior Court 2013-1-CV-250808).

  2. Government entities spend a lot of time trying zoo get around the Brown Act, while they dissemble aloud about their transparency. The 2013-2014 Civil Grand Jury investigated similar allegations against the City of Palo Alto.

    However, you couch your argument as one for the people, when in fact the press speaks only for itself. There in no real unbiased reporting any longer. They spout only what suits their preconceived notion. All opposing data is discarded, not reported. No-one questions the data gaps or inconsistencies. All media spout opinion and pass it off as news; very much one-sided to the left, with Fox and Rush countering to the right. And this nation of sheep just follows along.

  3. Well since the media can’t file any public records act lawsuits until the courts are back open, sounds like the city has the upper hand here.

  4. > Government Transparency Suffers Amid Pandemic

    > Santa Clara has joined a growing list of government bodies that are putting public records requests on the back burner amid the coronavirus outbreak.

    Santa Clara is just the tip of the iceberg.

    There are so many instances of “the government” and the “deep state” activists suppressing information that it’s hard to pick out the top three or five most outrageous examples.

    But even, worse, many of the suppressions have been successful and going on for such a long time, that when you put them in front of the average poorly informed member of the public, the typical response is:

    “Duh. I’ve never heard of that. It’s just a ‘conspiracy theory.’. If it were true, the TV news would have reported it.”

  5. Yeah, the Flu “epidemic” came at a convenient time in history for so called government leaders. Guess “stay at home” quarantines will prevent folks from rioting in the streets for a little while but when all of us run out of toilet paper it might be a different situation. Keep a sense of humor and know everyone isn’t gullible to gov’t BS.

    • A government of the government, for the government, and by the government. Not exactly what our founders had in mind!!!

  6. Speaking of a lack of “Government Transparency” in the Santa Clara County Health Department, even the Los Angeles Times has noticed:

    > ” The Santa Clara County medical examiner determined the man tested positive for COVID-19, according to records provided to The Times. The discovery of this second death was never publicly announced, and county health officials did not answer questions about the case.”

    https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-04-11/bay-area-coronavirus-deaths-signs-of-earlier-spread-california

    “New signs suggest coronavirus was in California far earlier than anyone knew”

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