Former Mayor Shirley Dean is asking Berkeley for records of all the appointments, emails, memos, meeting notes, and letters produced by Berkeley city council members and the mayor for the last five and a half years. Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Most government records are subject to California’s Public Records Act, which means cities like Berkeley have to turn over internal documents when asked. The California Public Records Act defines public records as “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics.”

In an Opinionator piece in Berkeleyside, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates lambasts former Mayor Shirley Dean for a public records request she made that he says is far-reaching and will take up so much time that it will render the city government ineffective.

Dean, whom Bates regards as a political opponent — he defeated her in a race for mayor — has requested  “all records related to appointments for meetings involving the Mayor or any Councilmember for the past five and a half years,” writes Bates. “She seeks all calendars, memos and meeting notes from every appointment, as well as all emails and correspondence with other parties, “that are relative to appointments, including those seeking, confirming, mentioning and discussing appointments in any way.”

Bates contends this request for hundreds of thousands of records will take up several weeks of city staff time. Bates believes this is an abuse of the public records act and he asks Dean to narrow what she is seeking.

What do you think? Share your opinion in the comments section of the op-ed.

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