It's taken two months of almost constant hounding, more than a dozen blog posts, pressure from the mayor of San Diego and dozens of phone calls, voicemails and e-mails, but, this morning, the Southeastern Economic Development Corp. finally handed over virtually un-redacted copies of Corporate Counsel Regina Petty's legal bills.
Here's how the records request battle played out:
In the wake of the SEDC bonus scandal, I first put in a request for the documents on Sept. 4.
On Sept. 25, three weeks after I had submitted the request, I called Petty's office to find out when the documents would be available. (By law, SEDC had 10 days to respond to the request). I spoke to Petty's assistant, who told me that she had just spent five hours collating the records, and that they were ready for me to view, but that Petty had to look at them first.
The same assistant told me Petty was going to France the next day and wouldn't be back until Oct. 2. As soon as Petty got back, I'd get the documents, I was told.
I waited until Petty got back from her trip. Then I started to call the office daily. My calls were forwarded to Petty's voicemail. On Oct. 6, we officially began Petty Watch, updating this blog, with excruciating detail, with each advance of the public records fight and with each ignored phone call.
On Oct. 15, after I called to speak to either Petty or her assistant, an employee at Petty's office told me, "They're just not taking your calls."
Then, later that day, SEDC told me to come over and pick up copies of the bills. But those bills didn't contain the number of hours Petty worked, or the amount she charged the agency, both of which are public records that must be made available for public scrutiny, according to attorney Terry Francke, an expert on public records law.
Petty Watch continued.
On Oct. 20, Petty wrote this letter to voiceofsandiego.org, her first contact with us for weeks. For the next few days, Petty was lambasted in the reader comments posted to the website and, on Oct. 23, attorney Cory Briggs responded to the lawyer's letter with this missive.
On Oct. 24, I heard from SEDC's spokesman that the agency's new interim president, Brian Trotier, had stated at a public meeting that SEDC had abided by the California Public Records Act by providing me with the redacted documents.
As I pointed out in this post, and later in this post, it hadn't. The information the agency had redacted was not privileged information. Besides, the records act requires a public agency to provide a written response detailing why it has withheld records.
On Tuesday, Rachel Laing, a spokeswoman for the Mayor's Office, said the office would be calling SEDC and asking them to abide by the Public Records Act.
Yesterday morning, I finally got to talk to Trotier. He told me that I should have received a cover letter with the documents that SEDC provided to me on Oct. 15. That letter should have explained to me why the documents were redacted, Trotier said.
I never received such a letter, I told him. All I got was a stack of redacted documents.
Trotier said that, since I hadn't received a written response to my request, he was considering the request still open, and would be dealing with it anew.
Late last night I got a call telling me to come and get the records. I picked them up this morning. They detail, in full, the number of hours Petty worked for the agency, in addition to the amount she charged for that work — $375 an hour.
I will be sifting through those records, along with Petty's legal bills that I received from other public agencies. I have no idea if there's even a story there, but at least now I have all the public documents to know.
In the meantime, thanks for all the letters, e-mails and phone calls of support during this long, long battle.