Monday, July 7, 2014

Eureka Denies Release of Controversial Memo

Posted By on Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 3:17 PM

click to enlarge City_Seal_Eureka_California.png
After conferring with an outside attorney, the city of Eureka has denied a Journal request seeking the release of a controversial memo penned by former City Manager Bill Panos on the day he left his employment with the city.

The Oct. 4 memo — or, more specifically, the controversy surrounding it — was thrust into public light by a declaration former Eureka City Councilman Lance Madsen penned on his deathbed, alleging that City Attorney Cydny Day-Wilson improperly distributed Panos’ memo to City Hall employees and then lied about having done so.

In the declaration and an accompanying investigative report, Madsen said Panos sent the memo to city council members, making clear it was confidential and contained personnel information. Nonetheless, Madsen said city employees quickly became aware of the memo, which Panos dubbed a “reorganization blueprint” but city attorneys reportedly began referring to as “Panos’ hit list” because it was sharply critical of some city department heads.

In his investigation report, Madsen details a number of interviews he conducted with city employees and a council member trying to ascertain how the document began circulating through City Hall. Madsen concluded that Councilwoman Melinda Ciarabellini had turned the document over to Day-Wilson, concerned that it might open the city up to some form of litigation. Day-Wilson, Madsen alleges, then made copies of the document and gave them to at least two city employees, reportedly telling them that the document was emailed to the council and therefore was a public document and did not warrant the protections normally granted personnel matters. For a full story on Madsen’s allegations, read past Journal coverage here.

The Journal submitted a California Public Records Act seeking the release of Panos’ memo, but the request was recently denied by the city, which found “the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interested served by disclosure,” according to an email from City Clerk Pam Powell. In response to a follow up question, Powell said current City Manager Greg Sparks reached the determination after consulting with outside counsel.
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