Lawsuit alleges San Jose, mayor violating public records laws

A new lawsuit in the South Bay accuses the city of San Jose and Mayor Sam Liccardo of violating public records laws.

The lawsuit claims the city and the mayor used a private email account to conduct city business, in secret, to get around public records laws.

The plaintiffs, which include the news organization Spotlight and the First Amendment Coalition, claim the city improperly withheld records, blacked out information and did not turn over requested public records.

"We took on this fight, because we believe San Jose residents deserve to know what their government officials are doing," said Spotlight co-founder Ramona Giwargis. "How public policy decisions are made and how the city interacts with lobbyist and special interests."

The lawsuit also requests a court order for city officials to stop using personal devices for public matters, or, to copy government email addresses on communications.

In response, Liccardo's Chief of Staff Jim Reed denied any overarching conspiracy to not be transparent, but they did acknowledge some mistakes. 

"In recent months, the Mayor’s Office staff, City Manager’s Office staff, and City Attorney’s Office staff have spent hundreds of hours reviewing and producing thousands of pages of documents in response to multiple Public Record Act requests from a single entity, San José Spotlight," Reed's statement said. "Although our team mistakenly missed two emails in our good faith effort to respond to one PRA request, we provided both of those emails in a subsequent request."

Reed added: We have implemented additional procedures to minimize such mistakes and ensure we continue to promptly and completely comply with PRA requests in the future."