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Sacramento Redistricting Plan Spurs Suit

(CN) - A nonprofit public interest group has sued Sacramento in Superior Court for access to City Council emails about its April 2011 redistricting plan.

Eye on Sacramento says the city refused its August 2011 request for several records under the "deliberative process exemption" of the California Public Records Act.

It is joined by the First Amendment Coalition in the lawsuit.

"Eye on Sacramento requested all written and electronic communications between two or more members of the City Council on the subject of redistricting or reapportionment of City Council Districts," the complaint states. "The city initially responded on September 2, 2011 by saying, 'Records, if any, which meet your request, will be made available for you to inspect or obtain copies after IT finishes its search.' Almost seven weeks later (long after the statutory deadline for responses to Public Records Act requests set forth in Government Code section 6253), the city produced a few records but withheld others with the cryptic comment, 'Records subject to the deliberative process exemption are not included.'"

Following up in October, the group's public records coordinator, Rick Stevenson, allegedly demanded "all written and electronic communications between staff of two or more City Council members and also staff of one City Council member with another City Council member on the subject of reapportionment or redistricting of Sacramento City Council districts."

"Three months later, Mr. Stevenson has not yet received any response to that request, nor have any records been produced in response to it," according to the complaint.

Sacramento allegedly created a "citizens committee" to recommend new council districts after the 2010 Census.

"The Citizens Committee, over the course of more than two months, spent many hours looking at 37 plans submitted by the public, holding public hearings and listening to interest groups," according to the complaint. "Ultimately, it recommended four plans. The City Council ignored its own committee, instead adopting a plan put forth by council members Steve Cohn and Sandy Sheedy at a July 26 meeting."

First Amendment Coalition says its own Nov. 4, 2011, request yielded incomplete records.

Both groups argue that city's exemption excuse is unconvincing. "There is a very strong public interest in disclosure, and no significant interest in withholding the documents," the complaint states. "The point is that the public has a right to see for itself how its government has acted, especially when it comes to a critical issue like reapportionment."

Sacramento should be ordered to disclose the emails, according to the groups. They are represented by Karl Olson with San Francisco law firm Ram, Olson, Cereghino & Kopczynski.

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