On Wednesday, March 23, a city-council committee will discuss an ordinance to classify city business conducted on private devices as a public record.
The ordinance was proposed by open-government organization Californians Aware and is meant to broaden public records requirements. According to the proposed language, the ordinance aims for "further transparency and public disclosure of city records, all documents, communications and other writings created or received in the course of conducting city business by appointed or elected city officers or unrepresented city employees, regardless of medium..."
The proposed ordinance is the second attempt by Californians Aware. The group requested that a similar measure be placed on the ballot in 2014. That effort ended with allegations that the city attorney's office had attempted to prevent the measure from being placed on the ballot.
As reported by the Reader, the city has defended city attorney Jan Goldsmith in court for the past three years over his use of private devices to conduct city business.
Goldsmith has admitted to sending emails from his city email address to his personal account in order to work after hours. However, when Goldsmith was asked to produce those emails, his office refused. The refusal resulted in a lawsuit from San Diegans for Open Government (that lawsuit is ongoing).
Among the issues to be discussed at the March 23 committee meeting is whether the city should place the initiative on the ballot and let votes decide or whether they should amend the municipal code to include the ordinance.
In a March 22 email, Frye said Californians Aware would prefer the item was put on the ballot but would also support changing the municipal code.
Journalists and other open-government advocacy groups have urged the city council to adopt the measure since Frye and Californians Aware reintroduced the initiative in January.
"[San Diego's Society of Professional Journalists] believes that the public's business should be done in public and that every citizen has the right to use open record laws to track what government does in our name," wrote the Union-Tribune’s editorial editor, Matt Hall, on behalf of the San Diego Chapter of Society of Professional Journalists in a letter. "...[I]t's been argued that if a politician or a government bureaucrat uses a personal device, even to conduct the public's business, then it should be private. In other words, it's none of the public's business. This is nonsense."
The committee will discuss the item during its 9 a.m. meeting.