Public Requests for CSU Stanislaus to disclose documents pertaining to Sarah Palin’s scheduled speaking engagement at the university in June have created much controversy.
Whether or not the CSU Foundation, a 501 c3, is totally separate from the actual public university or if contracted confidentiality in possession of the university is subject to public viewing, both sides have been releasing many statements while a California Attorney General investigation is pending.
After one Public Request of CSU Stanislaus didn’t turn up any documents, the latest Public Request has been responded to with 899 documents thus far.
“There has been a great deal of misinformation and confusion surrounding the appearance of Sarah Palin at the CSU Stanislaus 50th Anniversary Gala, and we would like to explain the true facts,” said Dawn Theodora, University Counsel for California State University. “The California State University system regularly complies with requests made through the Public Records Act (PRA). The act clearly stipulates response timelines that we strictly follow and adhere to.”
“Two separate and different requests for information regarding the 50th Anniversary Gala at CSU Stanislaus have been made by CalAware, and we are in the process of gathering documents to respond to the second request.”
Senator Leland Yee, chair of the Select Committee on Open Meetings and Public Record Laws, states that he and Californians Aware made public record requests on March 31 asking the university to disclose Palin’s speaking contract as well as any other documents pertaining to her visit.
CSU states “The first request made on March 31 was for all non-public university records concerning the planned appearance of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin at the Gala. The campus understood the request to be for non-public records and for records solely used, owned and maintained by the Foundation. We provided a timely response to this request on April 6 stating the University had no records pertaining to the request and that the Foundation was handling Palin’s appearance.”
On April 6, the Campus Compliance Officer responded with, “The University has no documents that are responsive to your request.”
CalAware sent a second and different PRA request three days later. The request was for the contract with the Washington Speakers Bureau for Palin’s appearance, and all public records in possession of all University employees in any way related to the Palin appearance, regardless of whether those employees were officers or employees of the Foundation.
The University responded to the request on April 16 indicating they were conducting a search for related documents.
On March 6, 2010 a statement from CSU counsel said “As of today, we have retrieved 899 pages responsive to this request, and are still searching for related documents. Most of these documents are electronic communications dealing with media inquiries and facility issues. We are continuing our extensive search for all records related to the planned appearance of Sarah Palin, and as a result, may be notifying CalAware that there are additional records.”
“It is highly unusual and irregular for a requester to sue a state agency while the agency is still within the 10 day response time allowed by the PRA. We have been very responsive to these requests and will continue to act promptly in our search to respond.”
Senator Yee feels that “The CSU administration has completely violated the public trust and California law. Chancellor Reed should immediately take action to hold these administrators accountable. It should not take an Attorney General investigation and a lawsuit from a nonprofit for the CSU to do the right thing. How many more scandals do we need at CSU before Chancellor Reed takes some responsibility?”
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