Last week the Orange County Performance Auditor released a scathing report on the county’s human resources department. It disclosed, among other things, that 75 of the county’s executives and managers were given raises — in some cases huge raises — while services were being cut and other county workers laid off.
The report kept the identities of those managers secret, but they’re not likely to remain that way. The California Open Records Act requires that such information be made available to the public, and Voice of OC filed an official request for the list last week.
The county is still keeping the records under wraps, waiting, officials say, for the County Counsel to review them.
Yet this review is simply a stalling tactic, said Terry Francke, general counsel for the statewide First Amendment advocacy group Californians Aware.(CalAware is a Voice of OC partner)
While state law mandates that public agencies allow immediate public access to documents that are clearly public, the law does allow for up to a 10-day review when there is a question about whether the records are public.
“There’s absolutely no question here,” Francke said. “There’s no wiggle room. My guess is they are emailing all the affected people telling them to go to the storm cellar.”
Unfortunately, Francke said, it is not uncommon for public officials to take the entire 10-day research period, even when they don’t need it.
“The public records act allows for 10 days for a determination to be made, but it was never intended to be an automatic cushion or delay,” Francke said.
“It allows them to lie and say they’re doing research when what they’re actually doing its stalling.”