Give It Up
Local attorney implores city to stop ‘delaying and obstructing’ release of full report on McDade shooting
By André Coleman 08/21/2014
A local lawyer is pressuring Pasadena city officials to release a complete copy of the final report on the officer-involved shooting death of Kendrec McDade.
In an Aug. 21 letter to City Attorney Michele Beal Bagneris, Eagle Rock attorney Dale Gronemeier states the city is in violation of the state's Public Records Act (PRA) by not releasing the full report prepared by the Office of Independent Review (OIR) in a timely manner.
“Government Code §6253(c) requires the City’s determination as to whether it will grant my PRA request ‘in whole or in part’ within 10 days,” wrote Gronemeier, who filed the request Aug. 11 on behalf of the NAACP Pasadena Branch and Kris Ockershauser, a board member with the ACLU Pasadena/Foothills Chapter.
McDade, 19, was shot and killed by two Pasadena police officers on March 24, 1012. The officers involved, Jeffrey Newlen and Matthew Griffin, said they believed McDade was carrying a handgun as they chased him along Sunset Avenue just before midnight, but he was not armed. Nonetheless, the officers were cleared in investigations conducted by the District Attorney’s Office, the Sheriff’s Department, and Pasadena police. The US Justice Department also investigated but determined that McDade’s civil rights were not violated. The city has settled two wrongful death lawsuits filed in federal court by McDade’s mother and father for $850,000 and $187,500, respectively.
Anya Slaughter, McDade’s mother, told the Pasadena Weekly she wants the entire report released.
“It is unfair to me as a parent and the community, because we want to know what happened,” Slaughter said. “How can we build trust with the Police Department if they keep things from us?”
Pasadena City Councilman John Kennedy, a member of the council’s Public Safety Committee, which provides oversight of the local police, said the release of the entire report would help heal the community.
“I think it’s healthy that the community receives the report in its entirety with whatever redactions that the city attorney and her staff must make to be in compliance with state law,” Kennedy said. “The release shows the community that city government has nothing to hide, which is an important statement to all of the community. I believe releasing the report will help with the healing process that has to take place when unfortunate situations like this happen.”
A report on the incident prepared by OIR, which was formed in 2001 by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to investigate incidents involving the Sheriff’s Department and other law enforcement agencies, was only turned over the McDade shooting on Aug. 7. On that day, the Pasadena Weekly filed a PRA request for the document, but Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck cited personnel concerns for his refusal to release the full report, even to members of the City Council.
“While the City may be justified in delaying producing or denying production of other documents requested by the NAACP/Ockershauser PRA request, there is no justification for delaying or denying production of the OIR Report,” Gronemeier wrote.
In an Aug. 18 email to Gronemeier, Teresa Guereque, administrative legal assistant in the City Attorney's Department, said “additional time is needed through and including September 4, 2014 to respond to your request pursuant to Gov’t Code 6253(c ) (1) and (2) to allow for the gathering and examination of information from separate departments which may be responsive to your request.”
On Monday, Guereque sent the same response to the Weekly in response to its PRA.
In his response to Bagneris, Gronemeier pointed out the letter from Guereque is incorrect on two counts. First, he wrote, “In ‘unusual circumstances’ that are ‘statutorily delineated,’ only the ‘head’ of the City or his/her designee may grant the City an extension of up to 14 days to communicate the City’s determination as to whether to produce or withhold a public document.” Guereque’s letter does not identify her as a designee of the “head” of the city, Gronemeier noted.
More importantly, however, “Ms. Guereque’s reliance on Government Code §6253(c)(1) and §6253(c)(2) does not justify withholding the OIR Report. Those two subsections provide for extensions on making the City’s determination whether to produce or withhold documents because of, respectively, the need to gather records from offices other than the office processing the request (§6253(c)(1)) and the need to search for voluminous records (§6253(c)(1).
City officials have publicly stated that the OIR Report has been received by it and that it has been sent to your office; §6253(c)(1) is therefore inapplicable to the OIR Report. The OIR Report in your possession is a single document,” he wrote. “A single document is not ‘voluminous records’ as required for the §6253(c)(2) exemption. Government Code §6235(d) provides that “[n]othing in this chapter shall be construed to permit an agency to delay or obstruct the inspection or copying of public records. The City’s refusal to communicate within 10 days its determination to permit or withhold the complete final OIR Report is attempting to use the exemptions in §6253(c)(1) and §6253(c)(2) for precisely what §6253(d) prohibits – i.e., it is unjustifiably delaying and obstructing release of the OIR Report.”
In the end, Gronemeier implored city officials to “cease and desist from its delaying and obstructing release of the OIR Report and instead promptly communicate to me its determination and a copy of the OIR Report and/or any portion of it that it is releasing so that, if the City is not releasing the complete OIR Report, we can promptly initiate litigation to challenge such obstruction of the people’s right to transparency in public records.”