Garden Grove city officials are delaying the inspection of public records after Voice of OC requested to view the public calendar of its city manager, Matthew J. Fertal.
City staff are now saying that the city has 10 days to determine whether the document is public information.
Voice of OC asked for access to Fertal’s calendar Tuesday morning and was told by his assistant, at the instruction of City Attorney Tom Nixon, that the request for this document must be submitted in writing, which would give the city up to 10 days to respond.
When his assistant was asked the reason why the calendar could not be produced immediately, Fertal, who was passing by, approached the reporter from behind the counter and said, “You already got your answer” and “Stop harassing my employees.”
Voice of OC recently published a story detailing a host of Fertal’s family relatives working for the city.
Asked to provide an explicit reason why the record could not be produced, Fertal reiterated that the city attorney had provided a response.
According to his assistant, Fertal maintains his appointment calendar and keeps it in his office.
Under the California Public Records Act, members of the public can request public records during normal business hours and local agencies must “make the records promptly available” without obstruction or delay.
City Clerk Kathleen Bailor said that while the document is readily available, the city still has 10 days to determine what information in a document is available to the public.
But Terry Francke, general counsel for CalAware and open records consultant for Voice of OC, said that the 10-day period is a maximum allowance.
“The city manager can find and obliterate any private entries from a month of calendar days in maybe five minutes. Taking a full 10 days to get around to it not only shows a contempt for the law but actually violates it,” said Francke.
Staff in the city clerk’s office said they acted on instructions of Nixon, an attorney with the firm Woodruff, Spradlin and Smart.
When contacted for comment Tuesday evening, Nixon said he had not seen the document personally and would not speculate what a timely response would be.
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