Thursday, October 2, 2008

Peralta board to question records-law violation

OAKLAND — Trustees with the Peralta Community College District plan to grill administrators over their failure to comply with state public-record laws.

The board will hold a closed session to consider punishing employees who failed to respond to a Sept. 18 MediaNews records request before a Sept. 28 deadline, said Cy Gulassa, the board's president. Late Wednesday, the district responded to the request for information on possible financial wrongdoing; it declined to release the records.

Gulassa could not explain Wednesday why the district had violated a state law that requires public agencies to respond to such requests within 10 days, and he declined to say how the district would resolve the pending request. District Chancellor Elihu Harris did not return repeated phone and e-mail messages this week.

The board will meet Oct. 14.

Such violations are unfortunately common, said James Chadwick, a Menlo Park attorney who has represented MediaNews on First Amendment issues.

"There's pretty consistent misunderstanding of public-records law by public agencies around the state," said Chadwick, a board member with the California First Amendment Coalition.

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