After 8 days, a disclosure exemption response by Turlock City Attorney Phaedra Norton was received in regards to a Public Records Request for a memo from Assistant City Manager John French regarding the Housing Department.
A Modesto Bee article mentioned how they contacted John French at his home as he was reportedly on paid administrative leave. French told the newspaper that he sent a memo to city officials that included content pertaining to potential misuse of federal HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) funds within the City of Turlock Housing Department.
The article went on to reference French about how the memo put forth possible problems with spending regarding the 2008-09 budget and that they needed to be addressed before the new 2009-10 budget begins on July 1, 2009.
Naturally this memo appeared to contain important findings concerning our city’s housing services operations and not much else.
According to City Attorney Phaedra Norton’s response to a Public Records Request for the memo, we were apparently wrong.
City Attorney Response:
The above-referenced document you have requested is exempt from disclosure pursuant to Government Code 6254(a) and (c). In addition, this document is privileged pursuant to Evidence Code 1040 and, therefore, is also exempt from disclosure to Government Code 6254(k).
Definitions we looked up:
6254(a) – Preliminary drafts, notes, or interagency or intra-agency memoranda that are not retained by the public agency in the ordinary course of business, if the public interest in withholding those records clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
6254(c) – Personnel, medical, or similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
6254(k) – Records, the disclosure of which is exempted or prohibited pursuant to federal or state law, including, but not limited to, provisions of the Evidence Code relating to privilege.
Evidence Code 1040
(a) As used in this section, “official information” means information acquired in confidence by a public employee in the course of his or her duty and not open, or officially disclosed, to the public prior to the time the claim of privilege is made.
(b) A public entity has a privilege to refuse to disclose official information, and to prevent another from disclosing official information, if the privilege is claimed by a person authorized by the public entity to do so and:
(1) Disclosure is forbidden by an act of the Congress of the United States or a statute of this state; or
(2) Disclosure of the information is against the public interest because there is a necessity for preserving the confidentiality of the information that outweighs the necessity for disclosure in the interest of justice; but no privilege may be claimed under this paragraph if any person authorized to do so has consented that the information be disclosed in the proceeding. In determining whether disclosure of the information is against the public interest, the interest of the public entity as a party in the outcome of the proceeding may not be considered.
(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Employment Development Department shall disclose to law enforcement agencies, in accordance with the provisions of subdivision (k) of Section 1095 and subdivision (b) of Section 2714 of the Unemployment Insurance Code, information in its possession relating to any person if an arrest warrant has been issued for the person for commission of a felony.
Interim City Manager Gary Hampton said that the memo was requested by him and regarding a personnel issue.
Whatever the personnel issue may have been or that the memo contains, there still seems to be important information not relating to personnel issues but rather our government’s public spending and operation of housing services.
It is unclear if a censored version or summary of the non-personnel related information could be made available but no such documents have been released.
A review of the HUD spending and the Housing Department are currently being conducted by HUD and the City of Turlock.
HUD is also investigating a citizen complaint by Grant Davis that the City of Turlock has not paid back HUD funds that were used to purchase the former B Street Homeless Shelter. Since the shelter has been closed and not used for the federally funded reason for over a year now, the $300,000 in HUD funds used to purchase the property must be paid back to HUD.