Upland Refuses To Release Voter Survey Results

(August 14)  The city of Upland is refusing to release the results of a survey commissioned by the city council earlier this year testing city residents’ attitude toward a citywide tax measure.
The city council in April voted 4-1 with councilman Glenn Bozar in opposition to hire the Lew Edwards Group at a cost of $27,000 to conduct a poll of a cross section of city residents to determine their attitude toward the imposition of a half cent sales tax.
Lew Edwards Group then utilized a subcontractor, FM3 Research, to conduct telephone polling of 500 residents from June 21 to 28. The questioning explored attitudes toward the tax measure, and included questions relating to both a one half cent and one cent sales tax, while probing the change in attitude of those  surveyed when prompted with information or statements regarding the city’s economic condition and the need for or lack of certain city services.
Upon inspecting the survey’s results, interim city manager Martin Lomeli advised the city council against placing a tax proposal measure on the November ballot.
On July 29, the Sentinel made a public records request with Upland City Clerk Stephanie Mendenhall to obtain the results of that survey.
On August 12, city attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow responded to that request by asserting, “The city is not in possession of any final report regarding the survey.  The only documents which the city has in its possession are exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act.  All documents in the city’s possession are exempt under one or more of the following bases:  Government Code section 6254(a) (Preliminary drafts, notes, or interagency or intra-agency memoranda that are not retained by the public agency in the ordinary course of business, if the public interest in withholding those records clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure; Government Code section 6254(k) (records, the disclosure of which is exempted or prohibited pursuant to federal or state law, including, but not limited to, provisions of the Evidence Code relating to privilege).  In this case, the documents are protected by the privilege for official information that is acquired in confidence by a public employee in the course of his or her duty and not open, or officially disclosed, to the public prior to the time the claim of privilege is made, the attorney-client privilege and the deliberative process privilege.”
While Barlow did not provide the survey results, she did say, “Thank you for your inquiry.”
Peter Scheer, the executive director of the San Rafael-based First Amendment Coalition told the Sentinel that “I don’t believe any of those exemptions apply. What is really going on here is the survey they conducted apparently did not show there was adequate support for a tax initiative and that does not reflect favorably on the city so they would like to keep it bottled up. The California Public Records Act exemption for drafts doesn’t apply because they can provide you with records along with the actual survey results. That information might be in the process of being compiled into a report the final draft of which has not been written but the underlying information should be available.”
Sheer continued, “Secondly,  I don’t see how the attorney client privilege can apply, since the polling data was being used to make a policy and political decision and was not to provide legal advice. Finally the deliberative process exception is just not logical in this case. The public’s interest in knowing why the city council paid $27,000 for political polling outweighs the city’s interest in keeping that information confidential.”

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