Tammy - My wife just read this and warned me that I should be careful because you might be psychotic. So I say here for the record that you are right, that Janelle isn't an expert and therefore shouldn't be listened to, that the news article we've been discussing said Janelle received only one document as the result of her public records action, that it was absolutely fine for the City to withhold records from the public on the grounds of Homeland Security concerns to avoid scrutiny and criticism of its decision to build a new water tank, that either I conned the judge who awarding me fees was either stupid or corrupt, and that I can't sleep at night.
And with that, I withdraw from this discussion. Good luck, Janelle. Watch your back.
"Slimeball?" Please, let's keep this civil. Did I call you a neo fascist nut-job moron? No, I did not. I could have, but didn't, and that's the point: if a slimeball ambulance chasing attorney like me can avoid insulting you - a coward who hides behind anonymity on the internet - then surely you are capable of providing me with the same courtesy. Or is civil discourse also something you are against - like government accountability and transparency?
I am glad you are no longer insisting that Janelle's public records action netted her only one document. That is progress, and it shows you are, indeed, capable of learning.
Let's work on your insistence that I didn't earn the award the judge ordered the City to pay me. Like the "single record" argument, you seem stuck on this one. Let me repeat: a judge who wears a black robe and who has the job of deciding if attorneys like me deserve statutory attorneys fee awards in cases like this looked at all of the evidence you have never seen and listened to all of the argument you haven't heard and decided in my favor.
Tell me again why you think the judge was wrong. Wait - you never told me why you think the judge was wrong. You just keep insisting I couldn't have earned that award, not knowing any of the facts and ignorant of the controlling law.
Finally, you say "I never, once, tried to justify the city's reason for withholding information." Well, that isn't true, is it? Look what you wrote above:
"The article is quite clear to me that the city made good faith efforts to give you records and only had concerns about homeland security."
Then you wrote:
"Please list Janelle’s qualifications to come to her conclusions; that’s right,she does not have any. Neither does her attorney, who got a windfall of over 20 thousand dollars of Fortuna taxpayer money because of a schematic that was not submitted due to Homeland Security concerns."
Context is everything, and in the context of this discussion, it really, really looks like you were accepting the City's "Homeland Security concerns" as legitimate, reasonable and voiced in "good faith." You were not merely quoting the news article (which you apparently haven't read). You were presenting the "Homeland Security" excuse in a favorable light. You have been a cheerleader for the very people who broke the law and tried to deny the public access to public information on the ridiculous pretense of "Homeland Security concerns." Please stop denying it. It makes "Tammy" look bad.
Please come out from behind the fake name you are hiding behind. The fact you can't show your true face and stand behind your words discredits your views even further.
Janelle Egger: "Yep, this definitely doesn't make any sense. I'll even make a documentary so everyone can understand."
Anonymous Blogger: "YOU CAN'T SAY THAT! YOU AREN'T AN EXPERT!"
Janelle Egger: "I never said I am an expert. But now that the City has provided the data I requested, anyone can look at it and see for themselves that the City's conclusions don't make sense. We don't need a new water tank."
Anonymous Blogger: I SAID YOU'RE NOT AN EXPERT!
Janelle Egger: "And I admit that. Nevertheless, the City's "experts" made some mistakes. Take a look at the data and see for yourself. You don't need to be an expert to see that the data doesn't support a new water tank."
Anonymous Blogger: " BUT THE CITY'S EXPERTS ARE EXPERTS!"
Janelle Egger: "Yes, they are experts who were paid by the City to support the City's decision to build a new water tank. And they did. But an independent review of the same data they used shows we don't need a new water tank.
Anonymous Blogger: "THEY CAN'T BE WRONG! THEY ARE EXPERTS!
Janelle Egger: "Even experts can make mistakes, and these did. See for yourself. Review the data for yourself.
Anonymous Blogger: BUT I'M NOT AN EXPERT!
Janelle Egger: Look, you don't have to be an expert to see that we don't need a new water tank. See for yourself. Think for yourself. Don't take their word for it.
Anonymous Blogger: I don't know how to do that.
Janelle Egger: Let me show you how.
[To be continued]
Tammy, you are simply wrong about the "single document being released" aspect of Janelle's public records action. It was a whole bunch of records. Heidi Walters, the reporter who wrote the article, pointed that out above. The article says Janelle "got her documents" - plural.
Accept that. That's the truth - not your version of the story. Janelle's lawsuit didn't get her access to only the schematic - although withholding the schematic alone, on the idiotic pretense of "national security," justifies an award of attorney's fees and costs.
You don't believe I earned 23K helping Janelle? On what do you base that belief? The trial judge awarded me my fees after an intensive evidentiary proceeding where I was required to prove I earned that money. He saw my bill. You didn't. The judge knows the work I performed. You don't. But you "simply don't believe" I earned that award.
Your anger - if it is justified at all - is best directed against the judge who looked at my bill and determined I earned the award. So you are really challenging the judicial system that looked at the evidence, listened to argument from both sides, and made a determination in my favor. The City could have appealed, but didn't. So why again do you believe the trial judge made a mistake?
What "straw man" argument are you talking about? You think I need to resort to such tactics to show you are being unreasonable? That's not what I did. What I did was point out that your position is repugnant and contrary to time tested American values because you attacked someone seeking government transparency and you championed those in government trying to hide information. How is that a straw man?
You equate constitutional advocacy to "chasing ambulances?" That's like criticizing doctors for treating - and curing - disease. I didn't cause this problem. Those who decided to try to keep Janelle in the dark caused this problem. I fixed what was broken. I cured the disease of secrecy. But you don't think it is a disease, You don't think the City's attempt at secrecy was bad in any way, do you?
Had the judge denied my motion for fees and costs, I would not have asked Janelle to pay me a cent. She couldn't even afford my usual retainer. I took the case on contingency. I bet you think there is something wrong with that, that only people with enough money to hire an attorney have the right to seek justice. It would be consistent with your other opinions.
Finally, your "Janelle isn't an expert" argument is a better example of a straw man argument than anything I've written here. It is irrelevant that Janelle isn't an expert. All she did was look at data, form an opinion and then place that opinion - and the reasons behind it - in front of the public. She might be wrong, but pointing out she isn't an expert doesn't show she is wrong. And expert opinions, like the decisions our public officials make, can be challenged - even by non experts like Janelle.
Heidi - I stand corrected. The article was correct. It is those who claim the article says that, for all her trouble, janelle only received one document who are wrong.
Tammy - So what your saying is, if a government official makes a "good faith" decision to withhold a clearly public records on the pretense of "national security" then that should justify the withholding?
What are you, a Soviet-era communist? That is the most repellant, repugnant, anti-American argument I've ever heard. It would justify government withholding anything and everything without any concern for any consequence for doing so.
And in this case the City was dead wrong - and the knew it. They publicly displayed the very schematic they tried to later withhold from Janelle on the grounds of "national security." That isn't a "good faith" mistake. It is a bald pretense for keeping information from the public because those holding the information are trying to prevent scrutiny of their decisions.
And you feel that, under these circumstances, those who did this should suffer no consequences for doing what they did, for forcing a member of the pubic to hire an attorney to get what should have been freely given and easily obtained? You have got to be kidding.
The law wisely places the burden of even good faith mistakes on those in government deciding to withhold information from the public. This burden is in place to discourage the exact kind of behavior that ended up costing the City so much money.
But the blame should be on those who decided to withhold that information, not on the citizen who used the law to get it. Those who decided to keep information secret on such poor pretense are the ones responsible for what it cost to pry the information out of them.
When you blame Janelle for what it cost, you focus on the wrong bad actor. It is inexplicable and beyond belief that you can't - or won't - see that.
But as I've said, the good news is that the City won't do that again. Ultimately, it was a small price to pay to ensure the public's right to access information and scrutinize government decisions - which is what this is ultimately all about.
Again, good job, Janelle. Ignore those who think that people serve their government and question those who question authority. They don't understand what it means to live in a free society, why it is a free society and how fragile that freedom is.
Ah, Tammy, now I see. You believe that only experts have any right to ask for information, review it and come to conclusions.
Janelle doesn't need expertise. Neither do you. We all have the right - and should have the opportunity - to scrutinize decisions made by government and to agree, disagree or be indifferent.
I'm not saying Janelle is correct or incorrect. I am defending her right to form an opinion and communicate it.
I am so pleased you read "the article." "The article" was wrong. Period. I was there. I know for a fact it was wrong. Saying Janelle's action only achieved the release of one document isn't true.
But even if it was true, what of it? A decision to hold back even one public record is a decision that should not be allowed to stand - especially when the excuse for withholding it is "natiional security," which is the reason why they tried to keep that schematic secret. That, too, wasn't true. Releasing the schematic would not in any way jeopardize public safety, and they surely knew it.
By challenging the City's decision to withhold clearly public records pertaining to a matter of unquestioned public interest, Janelle fought for the public's right to examine the acts of public officials. It sickens me that she has been attached and ridiculed for not just doing the right thing, but the hard thing. It isn't her fault that the City was ordered to pay the fees it cost her to enforce the public's rights: it is the fault of the officials that decided to keep that information secret. That was a bad decision and their anti-democratic, anti-American decision resulted in a loss of public funds. They, and not Janelle, should be criticized for making such a patently unlawful decision.
The good news, however, is that they won't do it again - and that is the result that those who drafted the California Public Records Act intended when they included a potent enforcement mechanism.
Janelle, come find me any time an appointed or elected official wrongfully denies you access to public information. I will be my honor and great pleasure to make them give it to you.
In the meantime, good work for a private citizen who isn't an expert. Very good work. I hope it sparks others to look at the same information and come to the same or different conclusions. Reasoned debate is good. But please ignore anyone who challenges your credentials to have an opinion.
I am an attorney who has devoted most of my professional career to championing the right of free speech, and I am somewhat shocked that anyone could view Janelle's video as anything other than one of the finest examples of citizen free speech there is. Her candidacy for public office is more than irrelevant, it is simply incredible that anyone would argue that someone gives up their rights of free speech and comment on public issues when they run for public office. I am confident that Janelle's decision to produce this video - using public media resources that were provided with the hope the public would use them in this exact manner - is unconnected to her decision to run for office. Anyone who has followed this story knows how passionate Janelle is on this issue.
Oh, and just for the record, it is utterly incorrect that Janelle was awarded her fees and costs in her public records action against the City because the City provided her with just one record. Janelle's public records action caused the City to produce over 40 records wrongfully withheld. I was her attorney in that case. And before any of you attack me the way you've just attacked Janelle, go to http://www.callawyer.com/story.cfm?eid=910837&evid=1 and find out a little about my First Amendment/public records work.
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In Print This Week:
Dec 5, 2013
vol XXIV issue 49
The North Coast Journal Weekly
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