A judge on Thursday tentatively ruled that meeting schedules, office calendars and other official records of indicted former Democratic state Sens. Leland Yee and Ronald S. Calderon are public records, despite efforts by the state Legislature to keep them secret.
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenney ruled in favor of a lawsuit brought by the Contra Costa Times, San Jose Mercury News and other news organizations seeking records after Yee and Calderon were indicted on charges of corruption in separate cases.
The state Senate’s representatives had claimed that the documents were exempt from public disclosure under the Legislative Open Records Act.
Kenney noted that the information requested by newspapers concerns meetings refered to in federal indictments in connection with alleged bribery and other illegal conduct.
“The allegation of such wrongdoing created by the federal investigation is of a significant interest to the public,” Kenney wrote. “To the extent these alleged activities occurred under the guise of the legislators’ official duties is even more concerning. As petitioners contend, 'the public has a profound intest in holding its representative officials accountable for their actions.' "
The judge added that the disclosure of the calendars may indicate “whether staff members were aware of the activities, or whether the legislators worked to hide the purpose of the meetings and identities of those with whom they were meeting.”
The Legislature’s argument that disclosure created a security risk was undermined by the fact that both senators were suspended in March 2014, the judge added. Yee, a San Francisco resident, and Calderon, a resident of Montebello, have since left office.
Senate Secretary Danny Alvarez did not immediately return calls for comment on whether the ruling will be challenged. But another Senate official noted that there are more oral arguments and a hearing.