Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bray responds to LA Impact (UPDATED*)

Christy L. O'Donnell

Manning & Marder, Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, LLP

801 South Figueroa St., 15th Floor

Los Angeles, CA 90017

Dear Ms. O'Donnell:

On September 8, 2008, I sent a request for documents to your client, L.A. Impact. You responded for the first time on October 14, 2008. Your response so far has been legally inadequate and grossly unprofessional. Your client has been poorly served by your performance.

First, I requested public documents from your client, a public agency. State law gives public agencies ten days to respond to such requests. L.A. Impact received my request -- my second request, by the way -- on September 9, 2008 (see enclosed photocopy of U.S. Postal Service "Domestic Return Receipt," labeled as Document 1). Your letter of October 14 begins, "This letter will confirm our receipt of your correspondence, dated September 8, 2008..." (see enclosed photocopy of your October 14 letter, labeled as Document 2). No explanation for your delayed response follows. Should I wish to argue that L.A. Impact does not comply with the terms of the California Public Records Act, your own letter serves as the plainest evidence of that fact. It took you five weeks to send a short initial response to a one-page letter. I hope this is not the standard at your firm.

Second, pursuant to the Ralph M. Brown Act, I asked to receive agendas for public meetings of the L.A. Impact directors. You mailed to me an agenda for the October 16, 2008 meeting of the L.A. Impact Executive Council (enclosed, labeled as Document 3), with a demand (see your letter, Document 2) that I pay a $2.50 fee to L.A. Impact to cover the cost of mailing. As this agenda shows, the meeting in question began on October 16, 2008, at 10:00 a.m. But you mailed the agenda to me on October 15, 2008, as the metered postage on your envelope shows (see enclosed photocopy of Manning & Marder envelope, labeled as Document 4). An agenda mailed October 15 for a meeting on the morning of October 16 is useless, a fact I shouldn't need to explain even to you. In fact, I received the agenda after the meeting was over. Perhaps five weeks is just how long it takes you to get a two-page document in the mail, but you and your client are not complying with the Brown Act by sending an agenda for a meeting that is already over when the agenda arrives. Obviously, I will not be paying your client for this agenda. Future agendas are to reach me prior to the meetings described by those agendas.

Third, on Wednesday, October 15, 2008, we exchanged email in which I asked for an appointment this week to review public records at your client's office. You responded at 9:36 a.m. on that day that you would contact your client and arrange such an appointment for me. It is now 8:45 a.m. on Monday, October 20, and I have not heard from you. You had most of the day Wednesday, and all of Thursday and Friday, to arrange an appointment at a public agency to review simple public records that should be easily available. I am requesting an opportunity to review the recent agendas and minutes of a local legislative body, a set of records that any City Clerk in the state would instantly provide to me over the counter without an appointment. This is not hard.

I am not impressed by you. Do your job.


Chris Bray

*UPDATED: Here is the key paragraph in O'Donnell's letter to Bray, dated Oct. 23, that responds to the letter above:

As for your allegation that the appointment is untimely, there is no specific time requirement within the Brown Act, the above appointment is reasonable, and thus there is no violation. Although no explanation is required, you allege that you should immediately have been given an appointment within a secure LA IMPACT building solely because "a set of records that any City Clerk in the state would instantly provide to [you] over the counter without an appointment. This is not hard." As I explained in my October 14, 2008 correspondence, LA IMPACT Headquarters is a secure law enforcement building with restricted access to civilians. Further, the LA IMPACT taskforce is not a municipality or state agency, but rather a crime task force whose priorities are to assist law enforcement agencies in immediate and exigent crime suppression. As such, the above date and time is more than reasonable, given the nature of LA IMPACT. No Brown Act violation exists.

She's right, LA Impact is neither a city nor a state agency. But neither are a county or a school district, and yet both are bound by the Brown Act. (State agencies, funnily enough, are governed by a different open-meetings law.) Moreover, every one of these agencies, LA Impact included, is subject to the California Public Records Act. That means LA Impact's agendas and documents must be open to inspection at all times during business hours (6253(a)). Failure to comply is a violation of California law.

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