In the IJ edition of March 31 we learned that taxpayers paid $90,000 to settle a lawsuit by the county — a lawsuit a judge deemed improper — against a public advocacy lawyer. And that figure doesn’t include expenses the county incurred in bringing this frivolous lawsuit.
The back story behind the lawsuit was an earlier, incompletely fulfilled request for public records regarding a land use issue.
The county counsel, Brian Washington, unconvincingly described the failure to release the documents as a “coordination issue.” That characterization sweeps under the rug a compelling need for a cultural transformation regarding the public’s right to its own records.
Those fortunate enough to work in a government position, with its job security, generous benefits and a pension program few in the private sector enjoy, need to fully respect the fact that they are hired to manage publicly owned and publicly funded assets. Instead, the county’s failure to provide the documents forced citizens to hire a lawyer to seek the information that they in fact own.
And then Mr. Washington filed a counter lawsuit, in what a judge later deemed was a retaliatory action, illegal in California.
All this activity is on the public’s dime, during a time of shrinking county revenues.
Will the county Board of Supervisors hold those involved in this debacle accountable? And in the next election cycle, let that also be a question for candidates to the office: Will they demand the highest level of integrity in county staff, and hold them accountable when it’s not met?
— Suzanne Thompson, Mill Valley