The San Mateo Grand Jury released a report in July making 5 recommendations that town councils should consider regarding electronic communications amongst city officials. The Town of Woodside was singled out as the only city in the County with an email policy for Council members.
So, let’s put together our hooves to applaud and ring our cowbells for the progressiveness of our Town!! However, after digging our hooves a little deeper into the Town dirt, we uncovered some interesting information. It seems it took a lawsuit or two to achieve this small degree on transparency.
To sum it up, as court records show, a lawsuit was filed when the Town refused a request for the e-mail correspondence that had taken place by Town council members regarding a proposal before them. The other suit was filed against the Town for illegally charging the public to review files. Taking a look back over our own website, we noted reference to this case. According to one plaintiff “The lawsuit cost the Town over $34,000 just in legal costs. If they had followed the law, provided the requested information and promised not to charge anyone illegal fees it would have cost them nothing.”
Both lawsuits were settled in favor of the plaintiffs with the Town required to create specific e-mail accounts for council members, create a written procedure and train staff in handling public records, and make a list of documents that are available to the public and to stop charging illegal fees.
Mayor Susan Boynton responded to the Grand Jury finding, letting the judge know that the Town Council is “gratified that the Grand Jury has specifically noted the Town of Woodside’s proactive stance in this area.” Now, that in itself is a ‘prime grade-a’ example of one chewing one’s own cud! Perhaps, we and the Council should be clapping our hooves for the members of our Town that are not afraid to challenge violations of the law.
And we hope that the Town will create similar email addresses and policies for the Planning Commission and ASRB so that there can be a real measure of sunshine in our pasture without any one else finding it necessary to sue the Town.