SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) - The City of Newport Beach tried but failed Tuesday to stop the Orange County Register from publishing a story about spending by an assistant city manager.
In a bid for prior restraint, the city sued the Orange County Register, reporter Tony Saavedra and editor Andrew Mouchard at 11:51 a.m. Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court.
The city said Saavedra had got ahold of a closed session memorandum the city attorney had written for the council's March 17 session. The city, which describes the memo only as dealing with agenda item IIIA, says that the memo is privileged attorney-client communication "and is not to be disclosed pursuant to Government Code § 54963."
Saavedra called the city manager on Monday for a comment on the memo, and when the city attorney returned the call, Saavedra said he had the memo. City Attorney Aaron Harp asked for the name of Saavedra's editor - Mouchard - then called him and asked him to return the memo to the city. Mouchard refused.
The city sued a few minutes before noon Tuesday, asking the court to restrain the newspaper "from disclosing the closed session memorandum or its contents or any communications that occurred during the closed session." It claimed that the city would be irreparably harmed if the material were published.
But Tuesday evening, in a story updated at 6:37 p.m ., the Register published Saavedra's story on its website, under the headline, "After confidential memo questions meals, trips and gifts, Newport Beach seeks investigation of assistant city manager."
Saavedra reported that the city asked county prosecutors to investigate Steve Badum, who "may have failed to report dozens of meals and other gifts from companies doing business with the city."
Badum, who is retiring on May 2, denied the allegations and told the Register he is retiring for unrelated reasons.
The Register then cites the memo, saying City Attorney Harp listed 41 occasions when Badum may have received gifts "from companies that received no-bid contracts and other financial benefits from Newport Beach."
"In the memo, dated March 12, Harp asks the council if a criminal investigation is warranted," the Register reported.
Harp's memo said the evidence was circumstantial and that the attorney had not concluded that Badum had done anything wrong.
Harp and City Council members declined to talk to the Register.
Courthouse News reported this story in the early morning Wednesday, from the lawsuit and the Register story, long before business hours began.
Newport Beach was represented by June Ailin, with Aleshire & Wynder, of Newport Beach.
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