The Saga of the Sunshine Ordinance Continues

Saturday, August 17, 2002 9:28 PM

BY KAREN OCAMB

It was with some trepidation that members of the Sunshine Coalition attended the L.A. County Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting on July 16. There had been many delays following the Special Counsel’s report on the proposed Sunshine Ordinance, CFAC expert Terry Francke’s response, and the slight slap on the wrist in the L.A. Times’ Brown Act lawsuit. With the pressure off, the BOS could have decided that they had gone far enough in adjusting their own internal policy.

In my short remarks, I thanked the BOS for the progress they’d made, but stressed that the process wasn’t complete. “We urge you to codify the measures you have taken to make it very clear to the p u blic and county employees that you do not consider all the work and progress and process we have gone through assimplyanover – reaction to a highly publicized political incident. The Sunshine Coalition once again stresses that this is a systemic problem,” I said.

As an example, I noted the County Counsel’s justification for the $333 charge for a 7-page public records request filed by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). The cost was deemed reasonable because the requested item “did not exist in an identifiable record maintained by the Department.” However, I told the BOS, AHF requested a budget accounting of how the Office of AIDS Programs and Policy spends federal Ryan White Care Act funding.

“The fact that County Counsel simply justified the expense as opposed to questioning why such records are not available should cause considerable alarm. This sounds like Adventures in Arthur- Anderson Land. We know that you are faced with immense prob- lems. But we strongly believe that entrenchment and justification of sloppy bureaucratic practices only exacerbates the problem — not cure it,” I said.

Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen advised that the BOS not take any further action until all the new policies were up and running, adding that the BOS has already gone “beyond what the court feels is necessary for Brown Act purposes.”

Supervisor ZevYaroslavsky noted that he had problems find- ing the BOS policy on the website and questioned how the pub- lic would know about or even find it. He also had trouble finding departmental reports. Such problems, he said, were reasons why “codification has some merit.”

The BOS ordered a 90-120 day extension to “work out the kinks,” after which Janssen is to report back on the policy’s effectiveness. “We’re learning as we go along,” said Yaroslavsky. “This is more complicated than the stroke of a pen can solve.”

The Sunshine Coalition is currently putting together an ad hoc Task Force to monitor compliance with the BOS’s new policy. Anyone interested in assisting, please contact me at karen@lapressclub.org.

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