The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) of Los Angeles have sued their boss George Gascon again, this time charging him with brazenly refusing to turn over what should be public records.
In refusing a number of separate requests, Gascon “cited improper and nonexistent legal justifications” and failed “to comply with the law and to provide documents contradict(ing) his professed commitment to transparency,” the ADDA said.
“The public must be aware of George Gascón’s lack of transparency,” said Michele Hanisee, ADDA president. “His calculated and persistent refusal to comply with California’s freedom of information law is one of the worst examples of that, but it’s not the only one. Voters deserve to know his entire record before they vote.”
The suit, filed February 1, states that ADDA made a number of requests which were either not properly responded to and/or essentially ignored.
The ADDA asked about the hiring of a number of consultants and employees – including new chief of staff, anti-cop firebrand Tiffiney Blacknell and Shelan Joseph, who has been involved in the Gascon move to encourage inmates, like murderers, facing long sentences to file paperwork for potential early release.
In the Joseph matter, Gascon’s office claimed those records were exempt from release because, in part at least, they involved confidential juvenile records. The ADDA was not amused, contending that Joseph’s records cannot be exempt for “juvenile” reasons because she doesn’t work juvenile cases:
“At all times herein mentioned,” the suit reads, the ADDA “is informed and believes, and based on that information and belief, alleges that Shelan Joseph was not assigned for overseeing or supervising juvenile cases, nor was she assigned to handle juvenile cases at the time the October 2, 2023 CPRA request was made. Moreover, and in any event, Petitioner requested only a list of case numbers assigned to Shelan Joseph.”
The suit also claims that attempts to obtain billing and contractual records of special prosecutor Lawrence Middleton have been stymied. Gascon brought Middleton on to look at older cases involving alleged crimes of law enforcement personnel that may have been overlooked or not properly charged in the past. Middleton’s contract has a payment amount of $375 per hour and a “not to exceed” annual amount of $1.5 million; so far, Middleton has generated minimal progress, bringing only a single case back for review (see above.)
The ADDA wanted to see Middleton’s billing records in an attempt to, well, figure out what he’s been doing these past three years. The suit alleges Gascon asked for a 14-day response extension last fall and has gone essentially silent on the matter since.
The suit, said David Loy, legal director of the San Francisco-based First Amendment Coalition, could result in yet another legal loss for Gascon.
“Going radio silent is a problem,” Loy said of the Middleton matter.
While the Public Records Act unfortunately, does not have a hard timeline for responses, it does say the askee – in this case Gascon – has to respond by saying (roughly) either “sure, here you go” or “those records don’t exist, so you can’t have them” or “those records do exist but they are exempt from full disclosure because X, Y, or Z.”
Since Gascon’s done none of those things, Loy said “right there, the office is in violation of the PRA.”
As to the Joseph “juvenile” defense, Loy said he was “baffled. If that’s true, that’s an improper injunction.”
Gascon’s office does not discuss pending litigation as a matter of policy but did recommend reaching out to the LA County Counsel’s Office.
Not only did the County Counsel’s Office reply, each of four different phone calls to the main office reception/front desk resulted in voice mail and the only available public email address was a generic “contact us” brush off.
Now that’s transparency.
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