The Coastal Post - May, 1998

County Agency In Violation of Public Records Act

By Submission

Marin Superior Court Judge Lynn O'Malley Taylor ruled in favor the Committee to Save Mt. Burdell in its Public Records Act lawsuit against the Marin Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). Taylor ordered LAFCO Executive Director Dawn Mittleman to turn over billing records related to LAFCO's vote to approve the Buck Center for Research in Aging in Novato, and to pay the Committee's attorneys' fees and court costs.

The billing records are at the heart of a long-running dispute between the Committee and LAFCO. The conflict began when the Committee asserted that the 1996 LAFCO vote to approve the Buck Center was tainted by construction industry campaign contributions to LAFCO board member Gary Giacomini. Giacomini was cleared on a technicality, but LAFCO still billed the Committee over $3,000 in costs for the 20-minute rehearing. The Committee refused to pay the inflated bill, and LAFCO sued the Committee in small claims court to recover the alleged "costs."

Under the Public Records Act, the Committee requested that LAFCO produce billing records to substantiate its claim for the money. LAFCO Director Mittleman refused to release that accounting. The Committee was then forced to use the Public Records Act to gain access to the information.

The Committee to Save Mt. Burdell is a citizen's group that successfully fought and won a county-wide referendum to reject the Buck Center in 1995. LAFCO's approval of the annexation to Novato allowed the Center to evade the countywide vote and proceed with construction.

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