By Stephen Hallett
I submitted a request for Public Records under the Public Records Act for communication between VTM/ORCEM (those behind the proposed cement plant/port) and the City of Vallejo regarding port fees and the roads on Lemon Street. After 24 days, I received a letter (link) saying that many of the documents were protected by the Attorney-Client privilege and the Deliberative Process Privilege.
Now I am sure that most people reading this are thinking “What on earth is the Deliberative Process Privilege?” Well, that is exactly what I thought. So I looked it up. Essentially, the Deliberative Process Privilege states that records do not have to be disclosed if by disclosing the records, the Government official would not receive the information. People would be less candid if they knew the records were subject to the Public Records Act. Another way of putting that is to say that the City did not want to disclose the records because they did not want the Citizens of Vallejo to see them.
The California Public Records Act favors disclosure and the burden is on the Government to show why the records should not be disclosed. Also, the City was really going to claim that they did not want us to see what they had because of how we would react to it? I quickly shot back an email (link) over to the City decrying the use of the Deliberative process privilege and asking what decisions have been made that would allow the Deliberative process privilege to be invoked.
A few days after my email, I received a call from an Assistant City Attorney (who was very nice and helpful) saying that, after internal discussion, the City decided NOT to claim the Deliberative process privilege. The emails reveal why this project is a disaster and it becomes clear why the City didn’t want us to see them.
ed. note: I have referenced the page number for each document cited in the source documents which can be found in Stephen’s 74 page PRA request HERE or at the bottom of the page.
There is an email from Matt Fettig (from Vallejo Marine Terminal) asking the City to obtain a grant for the roads and rail issues (rather than his company pay for it). [SEE PAGE 9] There is an email from Lisa Plowman (she is contracted with the City to oversee this project) saying that Lemon Street was no longer a designated truck route because of the damage done to the roads by the trucks and the city’s lack of maintenance funding (the trucks will still destroy the roads and we still don’t have money for maintenance) [SEE PAGE 14, 17] but that the Public Works Director supports redesignating Lemon St. [SEE PAGE 21]
There is an email stating that there is a memo from the Public Works Director (I have submitted a request for this document and will hopefully receive it) that led some city staff to believe the redesignation of Lemon Street as a truck route did not have to be in the Draft Environmental Impact Report (it’s not in there). There are also multiple emails stating that Lemon Street is not a good place for all these trucks. To the credit of Economic Development Director Andrea Ouse, she was clear in her belief that Lemon Street was not the place for these trucks and told the applicants so.
Based on the emails, I asked why Lemon Street’s designation was not in the Draft Environmental Impact Report and asked that the final Environmental Impact Report address this issue. These questions are now on the record and must be answered in the final Environmental Impact Report. I have submitted more requests under the California Public Records Act and I should be provided with more documents.
There is still time to get your comments in to the Economic Development Director and have them included in the official record. I urge every single Vallejoan to put comments on the record opposing the Cement Factory. If you ask a question, it must be addressed in the Final Environmental Impact Report. You have until November 2 to get your comments in to Andrea Ouse. You can email her assistant Leslie Trybull at email@example.com. Please let them know that you want your questions/comments included in the Final Environmental Impact Report.
View all the documents in Stephen’s Public Records request with the links below: