Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Battle of the Attorneys

This afternoon our attorneys, Lee & Fields, entered into a phone conference with the attorney for Santa Monica Community College District (hereinafter, "the District"), Mr. Joshua Morrison. Mr. Morrison is still denying us our right to inspect the public records of the District, yet has no legal grounds or justification as far as I can ascertain.

Mr. Morrison spent a considerable amount of time beating around the bush on this issue. Why not spend the time?... He gets paid a lot of money by the District... money which comes out of our pockets by the way as students and taxpayers. At somewhere between $135 to $225 an hour, that's a huge chunk of change spent from our public fisc, money which could be put to better use such as to student scholarships or toward an effective marketing campaign to draw in more students to meet the necessary quotas so our classes are not continually cancelled or to hire another staff member to keep our AET Computer Lab open for the evening students.

Perhaps Mr. Morrison should read our Legal Primer on Access to Public Information (see previous post) so that he understands the California Public Records Act and the other laws we are citing. Perhaps he already is fully versed in the law, but does not wish to honor it.

I am a little confused here on a few issues. First, why are they so afraid of allowing us access to our grants and contracts for the school? After all, there are supposed to be so many committees and procedures that allegedly guarantee that the money being handed out is for legitimate reasons. By the time these grants and contracts reach their final stage with the District's Board of Trustees, they are allegedly scrutinized to the smallest increment. Why do they now feel the need to conceal these same documents, bills, receipts, and proposals? Were they in fact simply rubbed stamped through the system? Did they think that there would never be any scrutiny after the fact?... No accountability? Did they perhaps not follow the proper procedures? If Mr. Morrison and his client, the District, have their way, we shall never know. But, according to the law, isn't it our fundamental right to know?

This leads to my second question. If I am defending the school through my proposed Court order to produce these documents for inspection and copying, and through the SAVE SMC website and blog and Mr. Morrison is also defending the school by representing the District, then why are we on opposite sides? Should we not be allies instead of adversaries? Is Mr. Morrison not perhaps defending the school, but instead defending the administrators who are not acting in the capacity of the sacred guardians of the public's information and instruments which we have created? This just makes no sense to me.

Also, my final question. Mr. Morrison sent me an email on September 8, 2005 (shame on him, he allegedly violated state bar rules of ethics by sending it to me as a party and not to my attorney), telling me, "You may make arrangements to inspect and/or copy these records by telephoning Gina Cole." Okay, so why then, about 20 minutes later, Gina Cole pushes us out of the SMC President's Office (never mentioning a word about these records), locks the door and barricades herself, Defendant Letty Kilian, and Defendant Thomas Donner inside? Why, when our paralegal returned about an hour later with the photojournalist from the Corsair, did Gina Cole state: "Please leave. Campus Police will be out there to meet you."???? To me, that does not seem that Mr. Morrison, SMC, or Gina Cole planned to comply with the California Public Records Act (CPRA).

So, Mr. Morrison seems nervous to answer our Verified Complaint and Petition under the CPRA. For those of you not familiar with the law, when a complaint is verified (that is, signed under penalty of perjury), the answer by the Defendants must also be verified (signed under penalty of perjury). In this case, if the Defendants ADMIT our allegations, they are alleging, in essence, that they did not comply with the law. If they DENY our allegations, then they are, in essence, committing perjury as our allegations are thoroughly documented. Hey, I had to sign MY NAME to the complaint and I am not about to commit perjury! Perhaps if the Defendants did not do the acts alleged in the complaint and simply complied with the law, they would not be in such a tight bind right now.

Mr. Morrison now states to our attorney, Mr. Edward Y. Lee, that he will produce some documents tomorrow for me to pick up. Given their past actions and broken promises, I will not hold my breath. Hopefully, if they do give us something, the Campus Police will not be there to harass and intimidate me or anyone else again! If they do, we shall thoroughly once again document the incident. I'm sure all of you as well as the Court will find the outcome most interesting.

If you wish to take a sneak peek of Mr. Morrison's pic and bio, you can click HERE. Personally, he does not look as tough as he alleges to be.

-- Des Manttari,
Phoenix Genesis

(c) 2005: Phoenix Genesis/MBS LP

Feel free to link or print this; just include the SAVE SMC URL:

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