Sunshine at last

Protracted legal battle over public records comes to an end

Last week, after years of legal wrangling involving a former middle school principal, the Chico Unified School District and Chico State, a dispute over public records came to an end. Coincidentally, it was national Sunshine Week, which celebrates government transparency.

In court, CUSD agreed to pay the fees of an attorney specializing in freedom of information. That lawyer, Paul Nicholas Boylan, will receive $200,000 for his efforts to procure the documents his client, Jeff Sloan, sought under public records laws (see Meredith J. Cooper’s report on page 10). Back in August, the court ordered the release of more than 9,000 pages of emails.

But that dollar figure is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the money spent to try to block Sloan from receiving documents that the court ultimately agreed should have been handed over. It doesn’t include CUSD’s legal fees nor those of yet another public agency, Chico State, as that institution of higher learning was sued by CUSD in its attempt to suppress the documents in question.

We’re very likely talking about fees totaling upward of $1 million of taxpayer money. Put in the context of educating the local populace, that’s certainly a waste.