City complied with NPRI's document request to prevent costly lawsuit, officials say

A public interest group that sued the city of Taft for allegedly violating the Public Records Act when it didn't turn over information about city salaries in a way that it wanted is willing to drop its lawsuit against the City.

But first it wants the city to pay its legal fees.

Now both sides are discussing the matter of the fees with attorneys and neither side is commenting publicly about the talks.

Robert Fellner, research director the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) which operates the Transparent California website, told the Taft Midway Driller last week that the lawsuit is just about over.

"Taft has provided us with the requested information and, as such, we intend to dismiss the lawsuit once the City pays the minor legal fees we incurred as a result of this action," he said,

But he didn't say how much the "minor legal fees" were.

"Unfortunately I can’t get you the exact amount," Fellner said. "(The) law firm is uncomfortable discussing terms of settlement, particularly when it's not finalized."

City Manger Craig Jones said he can't talk about the amount either since it's being discussed in closed session by the Taft City Council as part of the ongoing litigation.

He did say City Attorney Jason Epperson will be making a statement at the next City Council meeting.

NPRI filed the suit against the City on August 28, alleging the city was violating California Public Records Act listing the names and salaries of city employees.
The City said it had provided some information, and the information NPRI was requesting was already available on the California State Controller's website.

Both Jones and Mayor Dave Noerr said complying with NPRI's request would have taken a lot of staff time.

But that's what the City ended up doing, just to end the suit and save legal fees, even though Jones isn't happy about it.

"We just did it to save the city from having to fight a frivolous lawsuit," he said. "It just wasn't worth the money."

Is that fair?

"Of course not," Jones said. "I still believe the information was out there"