Letting The Sun Shine In
While California’s public records access laws are strong, they have a notable weakness: There’s no agency to handle appeals when requests are denied.
Citizens have to go to court, and although these cases get priority, the process can be slow and the cost prohibitive unless a nonprofit group steps in.
Putting more records online certainly makes it easier, faster and cheaper to get information ranging from results of competitive bidding for state contracts to Statements of Economic Interest (Form 700s) for many public officials.
There can be a downside, though. The expensive new computer system in the judicial branch actually has made it more time-consuming to make legal briefs available.
Also, the transparency site set up under ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to make top state officials’ economic disclosure forms and travel expenses accessible has been discontinued by Gov. Jerry Brown.
One new ray of sunlight: The Fair Political Practices Commission wasn’t putting commissioners’ own Statements of Economic Interest online until Investigative Newsource asked about them. Ann Ravel, the commission chair appointed by Brown this year, said immediately, “They should be posted.” They’re now accessible at the commission’s website.