Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Disclosure of Prison Inspector General Files Not Required By Public Records Law—Court of Appeal
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The watchdog agency for the state prison and parole system has absolute discretion as to whether or not to open its investigative files to the public, the Third District Court of Appeal has ruled.
The justices yesterday ordered publication of an Oct. 6 opinion by Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, whose bid for election as chief justice of California goes before the voters Tuesday.
The court held that the Office of the Inspector General is not required by the California Public Records Act to disclose anything in its files, and that a Sacramento Superior Court judge had no authority to order that some files be produced for in camera inspection.
The San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee and KCRA-TV sought to review the files in connection with their coverage of Phillip Garrido, the parolee accused, along with his wife, of kidnapping an 11-year-old girl in 1991, holding her prisoner for 18 years, and fathering her two children. The OIG issued a public report faulting parole authorities for failing to uncover the kidnapping in the years that Garrido was subject to their supervision, but refused to release its investigative files.
Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped on June 10, 1991, when she was 11 years old. Dugard was abducted from a school bus stop within sight of her home in South Lake Tahoe.
Observations of unusual behavior on the part of the Garridos sparked an investigation that led to the positive identification of Dugard, living in a tent behind Garrido’s home.
The OIG concluded that opportunities to discover that Garrido had kidnapped Dugard were lost because of negligence in the training and performance of police agents.
Cantil-Sakauye, writing for the Court of Appeal, said Penal Code Sec. 6131, which holds that reports by the OIG to the governor and the head of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation “shall be held as confidential and disclosed in confidence,” exempts all of the underlying investigative reports from forced disclosure under the CPRA.
The justice also agreed with the OIG that its investigative files are exempt under Government Code Sec. 6254(f), the CPRA provision exempting “investigatory or security files compiled by any...state or local police agency.” Nothing in the OIG statute overrides that broad exemption, Cantil-Sakauye concluded.
The case is Office of the Inspector General v. Superior Court (Sacramento Bee), C064178.
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