Orange County Power Authority Unable to Properly Manage Basic Duties

Orange County Power Authority Unable to Properly Manage Basic Duties

The Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) has faced public scrutiny in the last few months and that scrutiny remains well deserved. Let’s recap some of the concerns:

And now, to add to the list is the authority’s inability to properly manage incoming public records requests resulting in California Public Records Act violations.

I submitted two public records requests, one on August 6, 2021 and another on August 9, 2021, pertaining to the appointment of CEO Brian Probolsky. According to the California Public Records Act (CPRA), the OCPA was legally required to respond by August 16th and 19th, respectively.

Government Code Section 6253(c), states:

Each agency, upon a request for a copy of records, shall, within 10 days from receipt of the request, determine whether the request, in whole or in part, seeks copies of disclosable public records in the possession of the agency and shall promptly notify the person making the request of the determination and the reasons therefor.

However, nothing was received.

Having received no response, on August 30th I resubmitted both public records requests. On September 9, 2021, I finally received two identical letters stating my initial public records requests were not received “due to a clerical error”.

Response to August 6, 2021 request
Response to August 9, 2021 request

 

Do clerical errors excuse violations of the California Public Records Act? 

The answer is NO. According to the First Amendment Coalition (FAC), the 10 day period for response to a PRA request would begin the day after receipt of the PRA request. There are no exceptions to this rule. But that did not stop the OCPA from using that excuse to justify their violation and respond to the follow-up request on August 30th “only”.

The public can only submit public records requests by emailing info@ocpower.org, which leads to the following questions:

  • Who at the OCPA is responsible for processing incoming public records requests?
  • Who manages the info@ocpower.org email account?
  • Who is responsible for forwarding public records requests to the general counsel?

OC Power Authority’s September 2021 Board Meeting

On September 14, 2021, I made a general public comment to address my concerns about this “clerical error”, which Chair Mike Carroll responded afterwards.

Carroll: Just very quickly because it’s very casually thrown around in a public meeting that’s being recorded. I just wanted to ask our general counsel, are we in violation of the public records act? 

Baron: No you are not. 

Carroll: Thank you, no further information is necessary.

However, further information is necessary and would be appreciated since it is clear the OCPA violated the California Public Records Act and then tried to cover it up only after the same request was re-submitted after the 10-day deadline. The OCPA’s failure to timely respond to public records requests is a breach of a very basic duty to the public, especially Irvine tax payers, who are funding this agency.

My public comment and Chair Carroll’s follow up to my public comment can be heard below.

Has the OCPA failed to respond to your public records request within the 10 day period? Let us know!