Thursday, July 15, 2010

UC Regents Break Open Meetings Law

Member of the public denied access to meeting in “clear violation” of state law

SAN FRANCISCO – A member of the public was denied access to the University of California Board Regents meeting today in San Francisco in violation of state law.

An independent filmmaker documenting low-wage UC workers who face poverty was denied access to the public meeting with his video camera and was told by university officials that only “credentialed media” are allowed such access. However, state law specifically allows all members of public to record proceedings of a public meeting.

Government Code 11124.1 states, “Any person attending an open and public meeting of the state body shall have the right to record the proceedings with an audio or video recorder or a still or motion picture camera in the absence of a reasonable finding by the state body that the recording cannot continue without noise, illumination, or obstruction of view that constitutes, or would constitute, a persistent disruption of the proceedings. No state body shall prohibit or otherwise restrict the broadcast of its open and public meetings in the absence of a reasonable finding that the broadcast cannot be accomplished without noise, illumination, or obstruction of view that would constitute a persistent disruption of the proceedings.”

“It is hard to believe that UC executives could reach new heights in denying public access and transparency,” said Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who has authored several laws to ensure greater transparency at UC. “Once again, UC administrators are more concerned with protecting their ivory tower and their culture of secrecy than the public trust.”

“This is a clear violation of the statute,” said Jim Ewert, Legal Counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

“A filmmaker interested in low-wage workers' issues – for instance UC's threats to workers' retirement security – should not be illegally shut out of a public Regents meeting,” said Lakesha Harrison, President of AFSCME 3299, which represents thousands of UC workers. “Their actions today are the latest in UC executives' shutting the public out, which they will do even if it means breaking the law.”

UC is also fighting legislation that would protect UC faculty and workers who report waste, fraud, and abuse. SB 650, authored by Senator Yee, provides UC employees with the same legal protections as other state employees, including those at California State University and California’s community colleges. The bill currently sits on the Governor’s desk. He must sign or veto the bill by Sunday.

Specifically, the new law will ensure that UC employees can exercise their right to seek damages in court if the university has either reached or failed to reach a decision regarding a retaliation complaint within the time limit established by the Regents or if the university has not satisfactorily addressed the complaint within 18 months.

“This is the classic case of the fox guarding the hen house,” said Yee. “UC executives should not be judge and jury on whether or not they are liable for monetary claims. Finally, we are able to close this legal loophole and restore some dignity for UC whistleblowers and integrity to the system.”

which leads me to ask once again -- why doesn't the UC use UCTV to broadcast the Regents Meetings? Aren't they in support of having everything on line?!

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