Categorized | Arcata, Politics

Arcata Grilled On City Attorney Expenditures

Letter threatens lawsuit over disclosure requirements as Council to meet in secret

 

By Charles Douglas
Humboldt Sentinel

An otherwise routine closed session of the Arcata City Council next Wednesday may be the beginning of the end of Nancy Diamond’s long, long tenure as their City Attorney.

Entitled “Performance Evaluation,” the item at the end of an otherwise light agenda gives the opportunity to the Council to address longstanding concerns with the conduct of Nancy Diamond, who has served in the position for over a decade. The City has lost a number of legal actions during her tenure, and her recent advice on Arcata’s constitutionally-questionable anti-panhandling ordinance has called her competence into question.

Richard Salzman stands on the street corner across from Arcata City Hall with his criminalized sign.

Local attorney Peter Martin is increasingly the standard-bearer for questions about the legal stance of Arcata City Hall. He made headlines earlier this year when he filed suit on behalf of political activist Richard Salzman to overturn many provisions of the anti-panhandling ordinance, which even criminalizes the holding of a sign at a street corner in downtown Arcata.

”I requested that they amend their ordinance so as to comply with our guaranteed protection of free speech as outlined in the United States Constitution,” Salzman stated in a release. “Since they declined to do so I felt compelled to file a complaint…against the City.”

Martin’s latest move is to send a warning letter to the City on behalf of Marc Delany, a former Design Review Commissioner who resigned last March based on an alleged violation of open meeting law by the Arcata Planning Commission. Delany’s latest complaint came in the form of a public records act request to the City, inquiring as to the total amount of fees paid to every attorney hired by the City over the past few years. Thus far, Arcata staff are refusing to provide this information, claiming it subject to attorney-client privilege.

“The cases cited by the city in support of its position actually stand for the opposite proposition, that is, that the amount of attorney’s fees paid is not privileged under California law,” Martin stated in his Aug. 31 letter. “Information about fees is privileged only if it would disclose tactics or strategy.  A request for a total does not disclose tactics or strategy.”

Martin’s point, and Delany’s, is that the City of Arcata is acting as if it has something to hide — what’s more, Delany directly attacks the City Attorney’s office for what he sees as its mismanagement of litigation.

“The purpose of the public records act is to let the public know what its public servants are doing,” Martin stated. “The City can prove him wrong, if he is, by releasing the total amount of fees paid.”

Under the Brown Act, the Arcata City Council is allowed to meet in secret to discuss the performance of their staff — although any final action taken must be reported to the public immediately afterward.

8 Responses to “Arcata Grilled On City Attorney Expenditures”

  1. Lost it says:

    Do we have our very own Bell City going on in quiet little Arcata?

    Robert Rizzo, manager of Bell, Calif. earns nearly $800000 a year, twice the salary of president Obama agreed to resign today after a scandal …

  2. Greg S. Maizlish, Esq. says:

    Peter Martiin, Humboldt County’s premier defender of the downtrodden & oppressed, young & old alike, strikes again!
    And, he is correct that CAPRA trumps privilege claims.
    When will Arcata stop acting as if they are hiding something?

  3. Rose says:

    Shame on Peter Martin for becoming Richard Salzman’s tool.

  4. Although Peter Martin is involved in both cases (as the article points out), I might imagine you’d still take an interest in the Delany matter simply on the principle of open government.

  5. Rose says:

    Public records should have been turned over instantly.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Echoing Turner’s call is local political guru Richard Salzman, longtime campaign manager for Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos and recent challenger of Arcata’s anti-panhandling law (which also criminalized sign-holding at street corners). [...]

  2. [...] last year, which criminalizes the holding of a sign at a street corner asking for donations. A lawsuit is underway challenging this law, filed by liberal campaign manager Richard [...]

  3. [...] Moderating the forum is Dan Faulk, former Sacramento political insider and later-day activist rabble-rouser who serves as a lecturer at Humboldt State University. Notable locals speaking include Peter Martin, a former deputy district attorney who now runs his own private practice, which includes a lawsuit against the City of Arcata over their anti-panhandling ordinance which bans the holding of a sign on a street corner. [...]


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