Monday, October 24, 2016 – 9:01 a.m.
This weekend I received a tip from a frustrated voter about how San Bernardino County is refusing to release documents that he believes are damaging to Supervisor Robert Lovingood’s campaign.
Last month, he submitted two public information requests seeking information about the employment details and job duties of Fred Aguiar — the controversial lobbyist earning $122,000 a year while working 300 miles away from home in Paso Robles. Oh yeah. He also works just 18 hours a week…maybe.
He was hired by Supervisor Lovingood in January in what many believe was strictly a move to politically benefit his campaign, including to help with fundraising.
When a lobbyist is appointed to a six-figure “work from home part-time job” by an elected official, don’t you think there should be a little added scrutiny?
Well, San Bernardino County doesn’t think the taxpayers deserve to really know a damn thing about how their money is being spent. How else do you interpret the following public information request and the county’s response (clickable image below)?
Public Information Request & Answers…Kind of
I apologize for not responding sooner. Some elements of your request required me to consult with County Counsel. Below are the County’s responses to your requests:
1. Was Mr. Aguiar provided with a county email address? If so, please provide that email address.
2. Was Mr. Aguiar provided with a county workstation and/or login credentials so that he could either work remotely from home or on-site during visits to San Bernardino County? If so, on what date were these credentials issued?
Yes. The County does not a possess a document that identifies the date Mr. Aguiar was provided access to the County’s network. However, access was provided sometime during the period January 12, 2016 to January 22, 2016
3. Was Mr. Aguiar provided with an identification badge and a parking permit for his vehicle? If so, on what date(s) were these items issued?
Yes. The County does not a possess a document that identifies the date Mr. Aguiar was provided with an identification badge and a parking permit. However, they were provided sometime during the period January 12, 2016 to January 22, 2016
4. Has Mr. Aguiar submitted any expense reports? If so, please provide a copy of each one.
Mr. Aguiar has not submitted any expense reports.
5. Item A of Section V of Mr. Aguiar’s contract states that he is “obligated to keep track of hours worked.” Did Mr. Aguiar ever turn in any electronic or paper timesheets for approval? If so, please send me a copy of each timesheet submitted.
The County considers records of hours worked to be exempt from disclosure under Section 6254, subdivision (c), and Section 6255, of the Government Code.
6. Item A of Section V of Mr. Aguiar’s contract states that his work week shall be regularly scheduled and “established by the First District Supervisor of San Bernardino County, or designee.” Please send me a copy (along with their effective dates) of any and all work schedules assigned to Mr. Aguiar by Mr. Lovingood or his designee.
The County considers work schedules to be exempt from disclosure under Section 6254, subdivision (c), and Section 6255, of the Government Code. Furthermore, the contract does not require such schedules to be maintained in writing, and the County possesses no document responsive to this request.
7. Operating on the assumption that Mr. Aguiar was required to make some regularly scheduled on-site/in-person visits to San Bernardino County, either to attend board meetings or personally consult with Mr. Lovingood, do you have any attendance logs of any kind that would substantiate specific dates that Mr. Aguiar visited the San Bernardino County government center, any other official government location, or met with Mr. Lovingood?
To the extent any such records exists, calendars or similar types of records are exempt from disclosure under Section 6254, subdivision (c) of the Government Code and the deliberative process privilege of the Public Records Act.
Thank you, and please let me know if you need anything else.
Public Information Officer
County of San Bernardino
Dissecting the Answers
Note: the person who forwarded me this information forwarded the entire email chain.
Answers 1-4 are pretty straightforward. The County established that Fred Aguiar has indeed been provided with an email account, log-in credentials, and other identification normally provided to an employee.
Then we go off the rails.
Mr. Wert, the Public Information Officer, states that county counsel deems the rest of the information requested as being confidential and not subject to disclosure. They cite some legal code mumbo jumbo.
If we have learned anything this week it is that county counsel has some issues reading and understanding the law. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that the county conveniently interprets the law in a manner that benefits one of their elected officials.
What do these legal codes say?
Well, I am not a lawyer, but I can read and I did sleep at a Holiday Inn last night. So I managed to Google, locate, copy and paste below (emphasis mine) the California Government Code:
Section 6254, subdivision (c) of the Government Code reads:
(c) Personnel, medical, or similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
Section 6255 of the Government Code reads:
6255. (a) The agency shall justify withholding any record by demonstrating that the record in question is exempt under express provisions of this chapter or that on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.
(b) A response to a written request for inspection or copies of public records that includes a determination that the request is denied, in whole or in part, shall be in writing.
Now, you tell me. Do you think a time sheet detailing how many hours each week an employee worked is a personnel file that should not be disclosed? Don’t the taxpayers have a right to know if an employee is actually working the hours we are told they are for the compensation he receives?
Do you think that the taxpayers have a right to know if an employee working remotely some 300 miles away is actually doing any work? Do you think taxpayers have the right to know if said employee is required to make any in-person visits or check-ins?
Remember, this is a county where past employee(s) have been sued, prosecuted, and jailed on time card fraud issues. And yet, the county believes that the public interest would not be served by releasing this information.
Why do you think the county is refusing to disclose this information to the public? Do you think it is to protect Supervisor Lovingood?