Santa Clara has failed to comply with the California Public Records Act (CPRA) by lacking systems, employee training and documentation to properly fulfill public records requests, according to Tuesday’s report from the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury.
The Grand Jury found that despite being “in the midst of Silicon Valley with all of the area’s technical acumen and resources available,” Santa Clara’s recordkeeping is “disorganized and its staffing levels inadequate to process CPRA requests in compliance with the requirements of the law.”
The Grand Jury’s mission was examining Santa Clara’s contracting procedures. After encountering “numerous obstacles,” inadequate responses to document requests and “a lack of cooperation in scheduling Grand Jury interviews,” the Grand Jury gave up the investigation as “futile” and refocused its investigation on the City’s handling of public records requests.
The Grand Jury found that the City’s “disorganized recordkeeping and lack of a functional records management system hinders its ability to timely and accurately comply” with requests.
The report describes haphazard recordkeeping, routine and improper delays, providing irrelevant documents and failing to provide relevant ones, inadequate and untrained staff, an absence of automated systems, and lack of a “sense of urgency” about remedying the situation.
The Grand Jury gave several recommendations it will be monitoring. First, by Oct. 31, 2019 train staff responding to CPRA requests and develop and implement written policy for CPRA requests.
Second, implement automated records management and request tracking systems by Dec. 31, 2019 and “immediately” implement procedures to comply with the CPRA in the interim.
In a statement today, the City said “it disagrees” with the findings, it “supports the public’s right to access,” and has “established new practices that are advancing modern practices for records management.”
“These conditions are not uncommon in other municipalities,” said the City. “The … review lacked municipal benchmarking with other cities… Contrary to the report’s incorrect findings, the City remains compliant.”
The City will provide a formal response in August or early September.
Read the full report here: CGJ City of Santa Clara Final Report
Read the City’s full response here: Statement concerning Civil Grand Jury Report on Public Records Access