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Judge To Decide If NCTD Documents Will Be Made Public

A judge who will decide a lawsuit filed by inewsource against the North County Transit District said she will privately review documents that assess the leadership of the transit agency before determining whether they should be made public.

Known as “the Rady documents,” they detail the strengths and weaknesses of more than a dozen senior managers at the public transit agency. NCTD paid the UCSD Rady School of Management more than $31,000 to complete the assessment earlier this year.

Sources familiar with the assessment say it validates inewsource’s reporting over the past 18 months about NCTD’s “vacuum” of knowledge — the result of a high turnover rate among upper management and an alleged culture of intimidation inside the agency. Multiple sources said this vacuum is to blame for much of the NCTD’s recent safety, compliance, budgetary and operational deficiencies.

The transit district refused to release the assessment to inewsource, contending it is a personnel document and exempt from the California Public Records Act. inewsource sued in March, contending the document is in the public’s interest and asking the San Diego Superior Court to order NCTD to release it.

NCTD’s law firm, McDougal Love Eckis Boehmer & Foley, wrote in its opposition that, “The Rady documents are individualized assessments that pertain to each individual management employee, not to the public’s business.”

The firm also asked the court to strike from the record all references to published stories about NCTD that inewsource included in its lawsuit as background material and supporting documentation. The firm said the contents of the Rady documents “are completely divorced from the subject matter of those news stories.”

Judge Joan Lewis denied that motion to strike in a ruling Thursday, writing that “the Court cannot determine at the pleading stage that the reference to news articles and other documents in the petition is so irrelevant as to justify striking.”

After the judge reviews the Rady documents, she is expected to issue a tentative ruling and set a date for oral arguments.

Emails obtained by inewsource in March showed that the North County Transit District commissioned the Rady study without seeking competitive bids, then changed paperwork and attempted to backdate a new contract after inewsource requested the documentation.

inewsource is a KPBS media partner.

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