Who’s Paying for Tonight’s Fracking Symposium?

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More than three weeks after an activist first asked, officials at Cal State Fullerton are refusing to specify who is funding tonight’s forum on oil well fracking.

Brea-based activst and blogger Rick Clark sent a Public Records Act request to the university on Aug. 28 seeking “all information regarding budget, expenses, and funding” for the forum in electronic format.

While the records law requires that records be made available promptly, and within 10 days unless a specific exemption is cited, Clark says he was never given a required notice seeking an extension.

On Tuesday morning, Clark said he still hadn’t received the records. They should have been readily available, he contends.

“This is unconscionable,” Clark said.

But within an hour of Voice of OC asking the university about the request late Tuesday morning, Clark finally received records – totaling seven pages.

The budget provided to Clark shows $12,864 in expenses for the event, such as the location rental, police services, catering, parking and live streaming.

But for more than $9,000 of the revenues, it simply lists the source as “Philanthropic Funds” or “TBD.”

(Click here to see the budget provided by the university.)

When asked why it took 26 day to provide the seven pages of records to Clark, a university spokesman initially declined to answer.

“You understand that your story is not of particular concern to me,” said the spokesman, Christopher Bugbee.

He then described a reporter’s efforts to get an on-the-record response, without first going on background, as the “idiosyncratic desires of Voice of OC.”

Asked again for his on-the-record response regarding the delay, he responded: “No, I’m not answering your questions because I did not agree to do so.”

Bugbee then referred questions on the records request to attorneys at his university and the wider Cal State system.

The university’s general counsel, Monique Shay, and the Cal State University system’s deputy general counsel, G. Andrew Jones, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

As for the forum’s funding, Bugbee said he wasn’t aware of any oil industry or anti-fracking organizations contributing to it.

But he said he would need to check on the issue, in addition to whether the university received any funding from oil interests or anti-fracking interests this year.  It could take a couple days to get an answer, he added.

Among the panelists tonight is an executive with LINN Energy, a company that has fracked oil wells within a few hundred feet of homes in Brea.

Anti-fracking activists do not have a seat on the panel.

Clark said it took 20 days for the university to indicate that records would be available.

“I gave them a boatload of time,” said Clark.

On Sept. 16, Clark said he got an email from the university saying the total number of responsive pages is seven.

The university asked him to send a check for $1.40 before the documents are emailed to him.

(Click here to read Clark’s email conversations with university officials.)

Clark said he put his check in the mail two days later, last Thursday. The mail carrier told him it should arrive to the university by Saturday, Clark said.

But by Tuesday morning, Clark later said, he still hadn’t received the records.

Then, at 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday morning, Clark told a Voice of OC reporter about the public records issue via Twitter.

Clark wrote in his tweet that he “may pursue legal action over CSUF violation of CPRA,” using the acronyms for the university and the California Public Records Act.

(Click here to read the Twitter conversation.)

At 11:01 a.m. a Voice of OC reporter emailed Bugbee asking if the university had complied with Clark’s request.

At 11:53 a.m., Clark received a response from the university with the financial documents, according to an email he forwarded to Voice of OC.

Clark says the university likely violated several sections of the Public Records Act, and he is considering legal action.

Tonight’s forum starts at 6 p.m. at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Student Union.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that it’s been more than three weeks since Clark’s request.  A previous version said it’s been “nearly three weeks.”

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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