Mayor says suit is baseless, that information is available on websites
The Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) filed a lawsuit Monday in Kern County Superior Court against the City of Taft for refusing to comply with the California Public Records Act (CPRA).
The NPRI said lawsuit stems from NPRI’s work on its TransparentCalifornia.com website — which publishes the pay and pension data of nearly 2.5 million California public employees from over 2,000 unique government agencies.
Taft is the only city in Kern County and one of only a handful of cities statewide that have consistently refused to provide the basic name and salary information requested. The City’s refusal to do so is a clear violation of state law, according to Transparent California research director Robert Fellner.
“The California Public Records Act is emphatic in its purpose to make public all records concerning governmental affairs. Taft’s refusal to provide an accounting of city employees and their taxpayer-funded salaries is a clear violation of the law.”
Taft Mayor Dave Noerr had harsh words for NPRI and its lawsuit.
He said NPRI's document requests require "hundreds of hours" of city time for information that is already available on other websites -- including the California Sate Controller.
"Those requests were non-specific and would have required hundreds of hours of work," Noerr said Monday morning. "The total compensation package for every city employee is on the State Controller's website."
There is also data on the city website, Noerr said.
"So those people just need to get off their lazy asses and look at those websites," Noerr said.
The City first justified its denial on the grounds that the information did not exist in the specific format requested, but when Transparent California relayed that the information need not be in any specific format, the City denied the request on the grounds that it was ‘nonspecific and unfocused.’
The city also says it would take too much time to compile the information that is readily available from other sources.
"It would require many, many hours of research," Noerr said.
“Rather than focus on identifying records responsive to the purpose of our request — as state law mandates — the City appears intent on contriving any justification possible to keep its affairs shrouded in secrecy.”
Not so, Noerr said.
"We're not hiding anything," the mayor said.
The lawsuit asks the Court to compel Taft to comply with the CPRA and provide a copy of records documenting city employees’ name and salary information so that it may be published online at TransparentCalifornia.com.
TransparentCalifornia.com is used by millions of Californians each year and has received praise for its ability to successfully improve transparency in government by elected officials, government employees, the media, and concerned citizens alike.