Former councilman asks judge to release details in 2016 parking group controversy

A judge could determine Friday whether the city of Los Altos should release the full report in a 2016 legal ruling that concluded its parking committee violated the state’s open meeting law but allowed the city to continue to use committee data to craft new regulations.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Helen E. Williams is scheduled to consider the claim, filed by former Los Altos City Councilman David Casas, that third-party arbiter Arthur Friedman’s entire 18-page report should be made public. The council accepted the report in May 2016 after the city launched a third-party investigation the previous February at Casas’ behest.

Friedman found the Brown Act had been violated, as committee members broke into subcommittees in meetings not noticed to the public. Acting on Friedman’s findings, the council voted to disband the parking committee, but at the same time it used the committee’s findings. Attorney Ron Packard, who served with Casas on the council for two four-year terms from 2003 to 2012, is representing plaintiff Casas in the legal challenge.

Packard has a personal stake in the downtown parking outcomes; his downtown office building is located adjacent to property owned by brothers Ted and Jerry Sorensen. The Sorensens have been trying for years to build a three-story office building and make changes to parking requirements to help secure project approval. Packard has opposed any three-story proposal.

At the time of the May 2016 action, the city made available a two-page summary of the arbiter’s findings. The city has resisted release of the full report, citing attorney-client privilege.

“Under the California Constitution and the CRA (Public Request Act), the people have a right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business,” according to a motion in support of the petition, filed Nov. 14. “The city’s belated claim of attorney-client privilege fails since it had already waived the privilege by disclosing the two-page summary and discussing it in council meetings. It is fundamentally unfair for the city to share only a sanitized version of the attorney-client information, while concealing the balance.”

The city, represented by the Walnut Creek law firm Best Best & Krieger LLP, responded in its opposition, filed Nov. 28: “The Friedman report is exempt because the public interest in disclosure of the Friedman report is slight, and disclosure undermines the city’s ability to effectively conduct investigations on its governance.”

Attorneys countered that the two-page report that was released did not constitute a waiver of attorney-client privilege.

They also asked: “What additional public interest can be served ... except to provide petitioner additional fuel to challenge his political adversaries?”

The city council was scheduled to review the litigation during a closed session meeting Jan. 8, held after the Town Crier’s press deadline.

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