Well the fur is flying in far east LA again. This time it is in the nether regions of Claremont where all the brouhaha is boiling up. Why should you care? Because the City of Claremont has bullied Google into deleting items in a post of the Claremont Insider blog they host. This was done as reported FCBlog over a dispute regarding a court ruling that says salary information of public officials is public information. (Bravo to FCBlog for breaking this to a larger audience in the SGV).
The case was first reported in the San Gabriel Valley Times on 8/28/07. (The link to it is dead, but the nifty graphic from the online article is what got the ball rolling). The article is based on a ruling from the California Supreme Court S134253 found here. Bear with me as it is relevant to what happened. Short version is after a series of court cases the issue of whether previously available salary records can now be withdrawn from public review was determined. They opined in the end it is public information and we had a right to it. “Openness in government is essential to the functioning of democracy,” Chief Justice Ronald George wrote for the court. “The public has a strong, well- established interest in the amount of salary paid to public employees.”
(more after the jump)
What happened in this situation is that the Claremont Insider published the pay stubs absent some information as part of the long ongoing practice of exposing what they believed to be mishandling of public money and other concerns of wrong doing at the expense of the citizens. They obtained the information posted from the cities own web site which is open for review by anyone. The posted without the information that would lead to possible identity theft. (My understanding is that information is now withdrawn from the city website).
The City of Claremont allegedly made no effort according to the blog to contact them with any concerns of the article they posted over Labor Day. They contacted the host, Google who in turn deleted the offending material and notified the blog owners after the fact. Google claims that it was removed due to copyright infringement.
Why is this relevant? In looking at this for its face value it would appear that freedom of the press, a blog writer is reporting relevant factual information obtained directly from the city, yet their reporting is being stymied and censored by local government. Google allegedly participated in this reduction without discussing with the blog owner. The blog owner allegedly isn’t privy to the document exchange that lead google to the decision it made. Its been cited that they can’t release due to possible civil action against them by Claremont. Any legal eagles out there want to step into this fracas and ensure that the freedoms of the press are being protected? All of us out here blogging and reporting would like to count on some protections and defenses.