UC Davis recently received a failing grade from Californians Aware for not responding promptly to public document requests.
David Greenwald, executive director of The People’s Vanguard of Davis, claims the UC Davis Office of Campus Counsel — particularly Information Practices Coordinator Lynette Temple — is inconsistent in complying with public document requests.
“It’s not that the university has always been bad in terms of responding to requests, but they are inconsistent,” he said. “There is one case where they took 13 months to respond to a record request. Yes, it was complicated, but they said it would take a few months. Then they stopped responding to me, and I actually had to hire a lawyer to threaten them. Finally, they coughed up the records.”
Due to staff cutbacks all over campus, Temple said it can take more time to get the requested documents.
“[When] there is a request for documents for records from [departments on campus], it takes time away from their normal work day to gather the records and send them to me. Then I make sure they have gathered all the records to satisfy the request,” she said. “Everyone is willing to do it, but trying to make the time to fulfill the requests and still do the everyday work is a challenge.”
In addition to Greenwald’s claims, Daniel Watts, a School of Law graduate student, said in an e-mail interview that UC Davis has denied him access to public records, discouraged his inquiries about public documents and tried to charge money for copies of electronic documents.
Temple said they can charge for duplications even though it is not listed in the Public Records Act. Also, anyone is allowed to come into the office to review the documents.
Both Greenwald and Watts believe that UC Davis needs to make some changes to the process for fulfilling requests.
“As a public entity, [Davis] should open their documents as much as is legally possible. It seems they try to withhold as much as they possibly can, rather than reveal as much as they can. That is the wrong approach,” Greenwald said.
– Michelle Murphy
Correction – March 1, 2011: David Greenwald’s name was incorrectly reported as “David Greenwell.” The Aggie regrets this error.