Los Angeles school sued for public records law violation

Update: The agency provided us with the data in response to our lawsuit.

The Charter Oak Unified School District is unlawfully refusing to disclose records documenting the names and wages of its employees, a just-filed lawsuit alleges.

Today, the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the Charter Oak Unified School District, Superintendent Michael Hendricks and Fiscal Services Coordinator Antoinette Flores for consistently refusing to comply with state law.

The lawsuit stems from NPRI’s work on its TransparentCalifornia.com website — which publishes the pay and pension data of over 2.2 million California public employees from nearly 2,500 unique government agencies.

Transparent California first submitted a request to Superintendent Hendricks in August of 2018, asking for records documenting the name and wages of district employees.

After ignoring the request for three months, in plain violation of state law, Ms. Flores finally responded on behalf of the District in late November. In her response, Ms. Flores provided only a copy of the publically available report from the state Controller’s Office website.

Because that report does not contain employee names, it is a legally insufficient response to a request for records documenting the names and wages of district employees.

After numerous follow-ups asking both Ms. Flores and Mr. Hendricks to comply with the law were ignored over the next 90 days, Transparent California had no other recourse but to file today’s lawsuit.

The lawsuit asks the Court to compel the school district to comply with the CPRA by providing copies of records documenting district employees’ name and salary information. Once received, the information will be published online at TransparentCalifornia.com, alongside the data already received from nearly 1,000 other California school districts.

By refusing to disclose information regarding how tax dollars are being spent, district officials like Superintendent Hendricks are doing a disservice to the communities they ostensibly serve, according to Transparent California Executive Director Robert Fellner.

“Numerous area parents have contacted us about the conspicuous absence of Charter Oak data on the Transparent California website. This demonstrates the real harm imposed on the community when public officials like Mr. Hendricks choose to violate the law by denying residents’ their fundamental right to access and inspect government records.”

Fellner believes Californians will never receive the full transparency promised to them under state law until the Legislature treats public officials the same as all other Californians and imposes a penalty on those who choose to break the law.

“Public officials like Mr. Hendricks can thumb their nose at the state’s public records law because they face no penalty for their deliberate lawbreaking,” Fellner added. “So while ordinary Californians would face grave consequences if they refused to pay any of the taxes demanded of them, public officials can — in defiance of state law and a constitutional mandate — shroud their affairs from public view, without penalty.”

For more information, please contact Robert Fellner at 559-462-0122 or Robert@TransparentCalifornia.com.

Transparent California will be continually updating the site with new, 2017 data from the remaining school districts in the coming weeks. Be sure to follow our Facebookand Twitter accounts, sign up for our mailing list, or subscribe to our blog in order to receive the latest updates.

Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. The website is used by millions of Californians each year, including elected officials and lawmakers, government employees and their unions, government agencies themselves, university researchers, the media, and concerned citizens alike. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

Categories: 2019, Press Releases

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