, June 24, 2022

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First Amendment Coalition wants Vallejo to change part of its public records policy

  •   2 min reads
First Amendment Coalition wants Vallejo to change part of its public records policy
Vallejo City Hall.

VALLEJO – A First Amendment group is requesting that the city of Vallejo change its policy requiring people seeking public records to provide personal identifying information before the city will process the request.

The First Amendment Coalition sent a letter to Vallejo City Attorney Veronica Nebb on Thursday, arguing that requiring the personal information, such as name, phone number and address, violates the California Public Records Act (CPRA), a state law allowing individuals to seek records from local and state agencies.

“By its terms, the CPRA makes public records available to any ‘person,’ without more,” wrote FAC’s Legal Director David Loy. “It does not require that a person requesting records provide a name, address, or telephone number.”

Vallejo began requiring that people provide a phone number and address when using the city's online portal, NextRequest, earlier this year.

Loy pointed to Florida’s similar public records law. In a 2014 decision, the District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District held that a city cannot require a requester to provide identifying information and to do so “...could have a chilling effect on access to public records….”

In February, city spokesperson Christina Lee said that the requester can provide fake personal information when seeking records, which appears to belie the need to seek the personal information.

“I consulted with the City Attorney's office on this and was advised that we can require a means to contact someone about their request, although we prefer email,” Lee wrote in an email to the Vallejo Sun in February. ”The requesters are not obligated to provide their actual address, they can put in a fake address if they choose and this will get them into the system.”

Nebb couldn’t be immediately reached for comment, however, the coalition updated its website to say Nebb has told them that “the city would look into the issue.”

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