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Convenient excuses allow officials to evade public disclosure in times of embarrassment
Oakland Tribune ^ | 3/31/12 | Thomas Peele

Posted on 03/31/2012 9:32:52 PM PDT by SmithL

"All governments lie," the late muckraker I.F. "Izzy" Stone used to preach.

Let's add this: They also deny.

Denial of access is a government lie in and of itself -- especially when a bureaucrat tells the public it has no right to view the writings of top officials, particularly when those officials are in trouble.

A pair of recent controversies shows how quickly governments become recalcitrant for fear of embarrassment, denying access to information that may further public understanding and full accountability.

In one, lawyers have denied access to records involving a California power couple, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer and his wife, Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer. She landed in drug and alcohol rehab after a man with a record of drug arrests with whom she was having an affair purportedly beat her in a hotel room.

In the other, Berkeley has thrown up arbitrary barriers to some writing by and about Police Chief Michael Meehan concerning his bizarre decision to send an officer to a reporter's home in the middle of the night to demand changes to a story.

In the unseemly story about Nadia Lockyer, media members asked for numerous Alameda County records -- including her emails and text messages. That request became more urgent after other records showed the supervisor falsely stated that she was her lover's defense attorney to visit him in jail, a revelation that raises serious questions about her ethics and judgment.

But, get this. Among Alameda County Counsel Donna Ziegler's list of excuses for denying access to all of Lockyer's records is this gem: The county, she wrote, "is without any information to indicate any identifiable public interest" for releasing the information.

Ziegler's clearly creating reasons to protect Lockyer rather than the interest of voters and taxpayers by creating reasons to deny access. She is acting like a private lawyer, not one paid with your money and charged by both statutory law and the state constitution to take the broadest possible view of disclosing government records. Her reaction to the request was to simply say no, then find ways to justify it.

Bill Lockyer's staff also denied a request I made for his text messages during the 15 months his wife has been in office. Mark Paxson, a Treasury Department lawyer, argued that Lockyer's texts couldn't be retrieved, which raises questions about the retention of and deletion of public records.

However, Paxson also wrote that Lockyer's texts may not be disclosable anyway, and that certainly the phone numbers associated with any messages wouldn't be. Bill Lockyer is a state office holder, a former attorney general, with no expectation of privacy and whose records are unquestionably public no matter what they contain.

Paxson hides behind the assertion, one largely gutted by the passage of Proposition 59 in 2004, that politicians are entitled to deliberative process exemptions to disclosure -- meaning that what they do and with whom they communicate is secret. When bureaucrats have nothing left to fight with, this excuse gets carted out as a last line of defense against disclosure.

"Trust us, we know what is best for you," this self-serving theory says.

That's certainly what Berkeley interim City Manager Cynthia Daniel is saying about emails and texts concerning Meehan.

Daniel cited deliberative process excuses for some records, saying that writings about Meehan that were "not prepared in anticipation of public scrutiny" wouldn't be released. This allows her to keep secret anything embarrassing, no matter how revelatory.

Clearly, Daniel thinks the government is a little private club and that the public is entitled only to sanitized records.

Appalling positions like these work decidedly against public interest. We need to understand the government and the people in it for who they are, not for who they say they are. The only way to do that is strip down the veils they hide behind.

As Izzy Stone would surely have thought, denial is just another government lie.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Editorial; Government; US: California
KEYWORDS: alameda; berkeley; beserkeley; cultureofcorruption; freedomofinformation; frredomofinformation; lockyer; meehan; nadia
For history, click Keyword Lockyer.
1 posted on 03/31/2012 9:32:57 PM PDT by SmithL
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To: SmithL

There was a music video a while back, I think for “Right Now” by Van Halen that has a comment in it, right now your government is doing things you think only other governments do. All too true. I would put nothing, absolutely nothing, past hussein and his cohorts in crime.

2 posted on 03/31/2012 9:40:27 PM PDT by ThunderSleeps (Stop obama now! Stop the hussein - insane agenda!)
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To: SmithL

“All governments lie,” the late muckraker I.F. “Izzy” Stone used to preach.”

And “Izzy” ought to know...he was a KGB agent for the Soviet Union. For the article’s author to call him simply a “muckraker” seems a deliberate attempt to hide the truth, so to hell with the rest of the article.

3 posted on 03/31/2012 10:12:45 PM PDT by Harpo Speaks (Honk! Honk! Honk! Either it's foggy out, or make that a dozen hard boiled eggs.)
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To: Harpo Speaks

Bill ought to just release all those emails. After all, he can claim that any emails that contradict his claims were written by a hacker, whom he just remembered about.

It’s unfortunate that the government and media is involved in the Lockyer’s marital problems, but... that’s the risk when taking public office.

One thing I know for sure... when the Government and Media get involved in a civil case, truth and justice are the first casualties. Sacrifices on the altar of power and wealth.

4 posted on 04/01/2012 6:19:59 AM PDT by UCANSEE2 (Lame and ill-informed post)
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To: All
LAUGH BREAK Bill Lockyer's bizarro explanation for his wife's being in a motel room---bedded down with another man......"he and his wife argued so she went to the motel to comfort her suicidal ex-boyfriend" who has a long history of involvement with the criminal justice system. Lockyer said, "her only fault is occasionally having one too many drinks."

One of Lockyer's donors weighs in.

"Duh---that's what most married woman dood after an argument."

5 posted on 04/01/2012 8:23:34 AM PDT by Liz
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To: All
Somebody oughta check this out.

Dollars to donuts the sex-starved Mrs Lockyer (married to old man Bill who apparently couldnt cut the mustard) put the drug-addled boyfriend on the county payroll in a no-show job.

Probably getting paid for his "sexual services" w/

<><> a six-figure county paycheck,

<><>credit card, expense account,

<><> tax-subsidized travel to "county conferences at resort motels" with Mrs L,

<><> tax-paid cars, bonuses, benefits, and other tax-paid subsidies.

6 posted on 04/01/2012 8:25:57 AM PDT by Liz
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To: All
REFERENCE before she was elected supervisor in 2010, Lockyer was director of the Alameda County Family Justice Center, which is overseen by the district attorney's office. Lockyer had almost no experience as an elected public official when she announced her run for supervisor. She had served on the Santa Ana Unified School Board in Orange County. What she did have was a husband with powerful connections and lots of cash.

WHERE DID MR L GET THE MONEY TO BACK THE WIFE? IS HE THAT WELL-PAID? Bill Lockyer donated $1.1 million to his wife's campaign, which allowed her to outspend her opponents.

The Tribune did not endorse Mrs Lockyer because of the thinness of her resume. They interviewed her and examined her glossy campaign literature (paid for by her hubby). In the end, voters didn't know much about her and now with her extramarital sex play made public, they know even less than they'd imagined.

Here's some popular campaign funding frauds:

* Instructing a campaign volunteer to forge the handwriting of campaign donors on donor contribution forms required by the Campaign Finance Board.

* Offering to reimburse an individual for a donation to the campaign.

* Instructing campaign volunteers, and others, not to accept consecutively numbered money orders as donations to evade detection about shady donations.

* Discussing ways to conceal information about bundlers.

* Working closely with bundlers on fund-raising events in which donors were illegally reimbursed for their contributions.

* Impeding investigations by failing to produce subpoenaed records in an apparent attempt to evade detection.

7 posted on 04/01/2012 8:27:20 AM PDT by Liz
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