Just how many law firms has the Kern High School District hired to investigate its police department and officers after administrators came under fire last year for misusing a sensitive police database?
Your guess is as good as ours.
The Bakersfield Californian filed a California Public Records Act request Jan. 12 for “any and all agreements and/or contracts the Kern High School District has entered into with law firms investigating the KHSD Police Department and/or its officers.”
KHSD’s attorneys from Lozano Smith denied that request Monday, citing a series of penal codes that protect law enforcement officers rights and personnel records.
Except The Californian never asked for that information. We simply asked for contracts — records that the district has provided in the past.
KHSD did not return a request seeking clarification on its denial by press time.
In fact, the district refused to “confirm or deny the existence of any such documents,” and said that “the existence of such documents would be confidential under state law.”
That’s a law Nikki Moore, general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, said doesn’t apply here.
“That’s never been held to be the case. Police officer statutes don’t provide them the right to deny any documents exist,” Moore said.
Moore questioned the district’s response to The Californian’s request, which she said the district had no grounds to deny.
Penal Codes 832.5, 832.7 and 832.8, which the district cites, protect peace officer personnel records, and have nothing to do with contracts involving public entities.
“The documents you’ve requested contain nothing substantively about a peace officer’s personnel records, and if they’re recasting your request as such in order to deny this — which is what it seems like they’re doing — I think that’s improper,” Moore said. “They’ve looked for every exemption to exert to deny you.”
Beyond that, the district provides no explanation for its denial after citing those penal codes, something the California Public Records Act requires, Moore said.
The denial is especially baffling as the district previously released a contract between KHSD and Sacramento-based Van Dermyden Maddux to perform what KHSD Superintendent Bryon Schaefer has referred to as an “independent investigation” into the misuse of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System.
That contract had no price ceiling, and was similar in nature to the documents The Californian requested this month.
Which begs the question, just how much more of the public’s money is the district spending on other law firms investigating the scandal?
That's not something the government will tell us today.