Surf City Voice Asks City Officials to Stop Redacting Campaign Documents

Aug. 5, 2010

Dear City Council members, City Administrator and City Clerk:

I respectfully would like to register my disagreement with and dismay over the policy of redacting city documents that are provided electronically to members of the public making a Public Records Act request. I am talking specifically about the city’s policy of redacting addresses from campaign or other filings/documents that under the PRA must be available, in full, to the public.

If the city has to give information to the public at the desk counter, then it makes sense that it would have to give that same information, including addresses, to the public when delivering requested and discloseable information via email or other online portal. I do remember the original reasoning behind this ill thought out policy: to prevent stalking, but there are other laws to prevent stalking and none of them overrides the Public Records Act as far as I know. In any case, it is also illogical to think that a true stalker could be outwitted because he/she could not get somebody’s address provided to them electronically. There are a myriad of other ways to get that information on the Internet and a stalker by nature would probably be determined enough to go to the office to get it anyway—and I have yet to receive redacted campaign disclosure documents at city hall.

Why make the public go through the added inconvenience? Why give the public incomplete information from altered documents online?

Researchers have valid reasons for checking addresses on campaign and other city documents, one of which is to help determine the legitimacy of a candidate’s qualifications for office. In the past I have protested this policy to the city attorney and she ruled that I be given the unredacted documents that I had requested (in the case of city charter review committee applicants). Therefore, I believe that the same policy must and should apply to any other legally legitimate request for information from the city, either at the city desk or through any online portal controlled by the city for the purpose of giving information to the public. It is not within the purview of the city council or other city officials to protect public officials from public exposure online that they are not entitled to offline. I am officially asking the city council and/or city clerk to reverse this policy immediately as a matter of legal principle and for the convenience of residents of Huntington Beach.

Please consider this an official Public Records Act request, which means that a timely response by the city is mandatory.

Thank you.

John Earl
Surf City Voice

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