Jones obstructs Public Records access

To this day, Scott Jones’ Chief Deputy and entire Administration continues to block the public’s access to public records.  Scott Jones has demonstrated a pattern of obstructing transparency and being accountable to taxpayers.

The Custodian of Records to the Sacramento County Sheriff, dating back to 2010 when Jones took office, shows clear ongoing violations.  California law clearly outlines the importance of the public having access to agency documents.  The law requires disclosure and provides only narrow protections on the types of documents which are restricted from disclosure.

The Department is required to uphold California law and process public records requests within 10 days of receiving the request.  State law requires documents to be turned over to the public unless the documents are of a sensitive investigatory nature or would otherwise reveal private personnel information (residence address, blood type, family information, criminal history, etc.).  For those sensitive documents, whenever reasonable the agency is required to redact the sensitive documents so that the documents can still be disclosed while the sensitive information remains protected.

But when the records requests came from an attorney, alleging sexual discrimination and racial discrimination, and were about Department managers in reference to them doing things they shouldn’t have been doing, the Department alerted the accused managers in advance about what documents were being requested.  Not surprisingly, those supervisors deleted the emails and files that were being requested, so Kris Palmer (Custodian of Records at the time) could reply that those documents no longer existed.

Because of Palmer’s obstruction of public records, and because Palmer and his fellow supervisors refused to stop the abusive behavior, and because Sheriff Scott Jones chose to tolerate the misconduct, the California Public Records Act request soon turned into a lawsuit to compel disclosure of the documents.  That lawsuit ended with a $10.4 million penalty against the Department and the County of Sacramento, and found a “culture of retaliation” and “abuse”, retaliatory investigations, records falsification, and other abuses were rampant within the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.

When Palmer decided to run for Sheriff, and taxpayers were requesting public documents from the Department which revealed Palmer’s involvement, Palmer sent his campaign staff to threaten and intimidate people who knew about his past in an effort to silence them.  Palmer even went so far as having a Special Investigations Bureau (SIB) detective call the taxpayer to inform them they were under investigation for the information they were publicly discussing about Palmer.  Called a “retaliatory investigation” done “under the color of authority”, it is against the law for any public official to launch an investigation against a person who is merely exercising their rights to access and discuss public documents.

To this day, Palmer still obstructs Public Records Act requests, and is out of compliance with State law.  The California Public Records Act (CPRA) requires public agencies to respond to requests for document production within 10 days.  Kris Palmer is again out of compliance.  The CPRA also requires that all requested documents be provided unless they are of a sensitive investigatory nature, or are part of private personnel information, and whenever possible to redact sensitive information so that documents can still be provided.  Obviously it fails the laugh test that Palmer has refused to provide even a single business card, any names and job titles, and division assignments, as none of these are protected from disclosure to the public.  Palmer and his cronies are also out of compliance with with CCW records related to CCW licenses, revocation, and appeals, meeting calendars, vehicle maintenance records, and other public documents.

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department needs a complete leadership overhaul.  Sheriff Scott Jones has made the Department into a complete mess. It is going to take someone from the outside to come in and clean up the department.  An insider, who has been part of the problem, can never be expected to bring about the changes necessary to bring forth the integrity, transparency, and equality to the Department that Sacramento taxpayers deserve.