Photo by Qing Huang

Moderator Duffy Carolan poses question to panelists Nick Miller, left, Dan Laidman, Tom Peele and Karl Olson.

Don’t tolerate delays when making records requests

By Daniel Casarez

In a discussion led by Duffy Carolan, partner at Jassy Vick Carolan, LLP, panelists on Saturday, April 30 at the CNPA-PNNA Press Summit discussed strategies for overcoming the at-times arduous task of gaining public records. One of the underlying factors is an organization’s unwillingness to abide by media’s request for records.

“Always ask for the records on private phones,” insisted Karl Olson, partner at Ram Olson Cereghino Kopczynski, LLP.

Panelists encourage all reporters to remain vigilant and not tolerate any delays by organizations. Carolan said it’s a problem when organizations believe they can delay and deny requests for public records.

“Don’t let the smokescreens discourage you,” said Dan Laidman, associate at Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP.

“Educate the staff: Have internal best practices. If you don’t have something on the 10th day; here’s the first email, here’s the second email. They’ll take any excuse, any weakness, any delay,” said Tom Peele, an investigative reporter at Bay Area News Group.

Carolan, who recommended visiting the websites operated by Californians Aware and the First Amendment Coalition, said to always document requests.

“It’s really an uphill battle. Very many agencies know the likelihood that they’re not going to get sued by the newspapers,” Carolan said.

Carolan also said in the session, “I would say sue more, and when you get a fee award, make a big deal out of it.”

The panel also included Nick Miller, editor at the East Bay Express.

CNPA Summit correspondent Daniel Casarez is a multimedia reporter at Vida en el Valle in Fresno.