Filner, Dumanis push transparent, open government
By Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO — Two Jewish officeholders–Congressman Bob Filner and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis– were rivals in the recent primary for San Diego mayor, from which Filner emerged a runoff candidate. But on Wednesday, June 27, anyone perusing press releases might get the impression the two former rivals were reading from the same play book.
Filner issued a news release announcing elements of what he called his “open government plan.” Meanwhile, Dumanis issued another press release trumpeting passage by the Legislature of what she calls her “transparency bill.”
Both Filner, a Democrat, and Dumanis, a Republican, say they want the public to have better access to public records so they can know what various bodies of government are doing.
“Open government is the cornerstone of ensuring the public trust,” said Filner in a statement. “The public has a right to know how their taxpayer dollars are being spent and should be able to rely upon the information they receive from city government.”
In explaining the bill that Assemblyman Marty Block (D-San Diego) carried in the Legislature for her, Dumanis said: “Our office strives for government transparency, but current laws are lagging behind technology when it comes to electronic records. AB 2222 updates those laws, allowing us to respond to the many Public Records Act (PRA) requests that we receive every year more efficiently, while still complying with the statutes that protect victims and restrict information like an individual’s criminal history.”
First, let’s take up Filner’s proposals for San Diego City government. They are:
–”Establishing an Open Government department that would be tasked with assisting the public, media and all mayoral departments with Brown Act and Public Records Act issues and requests.” The Brown Act requires government bodies to conduct open meetings except in specified circumstances such as when they are considering personnel matters or pending litigation.
–”Providing annual Brown Act and Public Records Act training to all mayoral staff and departments.”
–”Strengthening independent city auditor functions by implementing the Association of Local Government Auditors Model Legislation to include: Providing the city auditor with unrestricted access to city employees, records, vendor contracts and reports when conducting audits. (And) (e)nsuring there is follow-up on significant audit findings and recommendations from previous audits.”
Filner ended his press release with the declaration that “if the public cannot access government information or suspects they are not being told the full story about how and why decisions are made, they lose faith in the system. I will implement open government measures immediately upon taking office.”
First, of course, Filner would need to defeat the candidate who came in first in the mayoral primary election, City Councilman Carl DeMaio.
In her press release, Dumanis explained that AB 2222, now awaiting signature by Gov. Jerry Brown, “would allow prosecutors in the state to use electronically-stored information stored in their case management databases to run queries and obtain valuable information in response to public records act requests.”
She said that district attorneys across California “are converting to paperless case files and paperless record keeping.”
“Many of these case management systems contain a large amount of detail about a case,” she added. “Currently, Public Records Act requests can potentially require the disclosure of information that other statutes currently prohibit.”
Intended to give prosecutors guidance in answering public records act requests, the bill, if enacted, would permit prosecutors to obtain information “that may be disclosed under the California Public Records Act” from files that would otherwise be confidential.
“We are sincere in our efforts to use our electronic case management system to respond to public records requests and AB 2222 will allow us to do this in a cost-efficient way, while complying with current law,” Dumanis stated.
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted at email@example.com
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