CalAware Audits of Open Records Act Requests Available Online

Carmichael-based CalAware has conducted and released several audits of California agencies commenting on compliance with the California Public Records Act, the Political Reform Act, the Ralph M. Brown Act, and other open government laws.  In some cases where agencies are out of compliance, CalAware has taken legal action to ensure the agencies uphold the appropriate laws. Each audit starts with a uniform public records request from an individual that does not disclose any association with CalAware.  During the ensuing correspondence and upon the provision of the requested records, each agency is graded on its compliance with public records laws.  CalAware has found some agencies have failed to respond or to provide records in the timely manner required by law.  Some charged too much for copies (10 cents is the maximum), or asked for the requestor's identity or the reason for the request (neither of which is permitted).

CalAware has posted its methodology for each audit, along with individual scores and the related correspondence and the records that were provided by each agency.  Follow the links below to learn more about past audits:

  • Most recently, CalAware audited 250 California public education agencies. In November 2010, a public records request was sent via e-mail to 36 community colleges, 22 CSUs, 10 UCs, and 194 K-12 districts. CalAware requested copies of five records related to the president or chancellor's contract and expenses from secondary education agencies, and four records related to the most recent tort claim and its settlement from K-12 districts. Written guidelines for accessibility of records were also requested from all agencies. CalAware reported that community college districts averaged a B - grade, CSUs a B, UCs an F, and K-12 districts an F. Read more about the findings from the Oakland Tribune, the Mercury News, and the Contra Costa Times.
  • In March 2009, CalAware submitted in-person requests for Form 700s from 18 public education agencies in the Sacramento area. Each agency was also mailed a written request for a list of seven other records including agenda and board meeting minutes, recent litigation settlements and expulsion records . Agencies were graded on their legal compliance (averaging a D grade) and customer service (averaging an A- grade).
  • In December 2006, CalAware sent trained employees and volunteers to audit 216 law enforcement agencies to make in-person requests for Form 700s and crime, citation, and arrest reports. Auditors later submitted written requests for asset forfeiture fund distribution, statistical data on complaints about officers, officer salary schedules and actual earnings information, and several other records. In providing the records, police departments averaged an F+ grade, Sheriff's departments averaged an F, and the California Highway Patrol received an F-. Average legal compliance increased to a C grade when CalAware followed up the audit by re-submitting requests to 116 of the law enforcement agencies in October 2007. Read more about the law enforcement audit from the Oakland Tribune.
  • In 2006, CalAware audited 31 state agencies including the Air Resources Board, Department of Motor Vehicles, California Public Utilities Commission, and State Water Resources Control Board. Oral requests were made for Form 700s and written guidelines on accessibility of records, and written requests were submitted for the total annual compensation of the top-ranking employee as well as the most recent settlement agreement ending litigation in which the agency was a defendant. The agencies averaged an F grade in a January 2006 audit, but improved to a C+ grade in the August 2006 follow-up audit.

CalAware also offers webinars, workshops and has online resources about open records.  The organization maintains a blog and answers questions related to government transparency and First Amendment rights through its public forum.  CalAware has also published several guides on open government, including The CalAware Guide to Open Meetings in California (available in its full text on Google Books here) and The CalAware Guide to Journalism Law in California.