Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

The Citizen files suit against Peralta Community College District over outstanding public records requests

The Citizen, Peralta Community College District’s (PCCD) only student run publication, has filed suit against the district to compel the release of public records associated with multiple requests made by four of the publication’s reporters under the California Public Records Act (PRA), some of which date back as early as November 2020.

The lawsuit was brought “to enforce six outstanding PRA requests, covering topics as varied as (1) the number of outstanding PRA requests in the District, (2) information about District vendors and independent contracts, (3) District credit card records, and (4) emails to and from Tim Thomas, the District’s Director of Public Safety,” according to the Petition for Writ of Mandate filed Jan. 18, 2023, in the Alameda County Superior Court. 

The Citizen began covering the district’s failure to respond to public information requests made by its reporters in January 2021, and in February of the same year published an article reporting multiple instances in which the district had not fully complied with the Public Records Act. 

In 2022, following the publication of these stories, The Citizen received the James Madison Freedom of Information Award. The award is presented to those “who have championed, protected and promoted public access to governmental information and the public’s right to know,” according to the American Library Association

While the district has released records in relation to the PRA requests in question, the petition alleges that some were redacted unjustly and that others were only partial responses. 

In an article published by The San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Johnson, PCCD’s Executive Director, Department of Marketing, Communications and Public Relations provided a comment on the lawsuit on behalf of the district.

“The Peralta Community College District is in substantial compliance with Public Records Acts (PRA) requests,” Johnson said. “In the event that documents were not provided, it was because they were legally privileged materials.”

Garcia Hernandez Sawhney, LLP, an Alameda law firm, will represent the Peralta Community College District. Conor Kennedy, a partner at the firm, has been authorized to accept service on the district’s behalf.

The Citizen is being represented by Sam Ferguson, a Berkeley attorney who in 2021 negotiated a settlement agreement between journalists and the Oakland Police Department over a backlog of public records requests that OPD had allegedly ignored. Ferguson also won the James Madison Freedom of Information Award. for his contribution in advancing freedom of information and the First Amendment.

If a settlement agreement between The Citizen and the district cannot be reached, the case has been assigned to Judge Michael Markman in Department 14 of the Alameda County Superior Court for a hearing that has yet to be scheduled.

 

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