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State Supreme Court declines to review case granting schools trustee access to Huntington Beach employee applications

State Supreme Court declines to review case granting schools trustee access to Huntington Beach employee applications
Ocean View School District trustee John Briscoe sued the city of Huntington Beach seeking public records, particularly job applications of employees working in trash disposal. (File Photo)

The California Supreme Court has denied Huntington Beach’s request that it review a school district trustee’s lawsuit over the right to see city employee job applications.

The complaint by John Briscoe, a Huntington Beach resident and Ocean View School District trustee, had primarily sought the job applications of employees working in trash disposal.

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Briscoe had concerns about a waste facility across from Oak View Elementary School. He wanted to review the employees’ qualifications to inspect the facility — such as their education and certifications — but did not seek personal information like home addresses.

The city denied him the records.

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In November, an Orange County Superior Court judge sided with Briscoe, ordering the city to give him the documents and pay his attorney fees.

The city appealed the decision to the state 4th District Court of Appeal, but a judges panel declined to review it. City officials then took their case to the state Supreme Court, which declined it Wednesday.

City Attorney Michael Gates noted in a statement Thursday that the appellate court and Supreme Court did not look at the merits of the city’s case. His office had argued that employee job applications are confidential.

“The Superior Court got it wrong and the appellate courts chose not to take it up to correct it,” he said. “Nevertheless, we respect the legal process and will honor it.”

Briscoe first made his records requests in 2015, and after various failed attempts to get everything he wanted, he sued in January 2017.

In emails Thursday, Briscoe accused Gates of not disclosing documents that should have been made public and of “foot-dragging stalls, delays and deferrals during the one year of trying to hide the peanut and hide the public documents.”

The case “is for the kids, the community and our school staff,” Briscoe added. “We must do everything and anything to clean up the stink and stench.”

But Gates said making the applications subject to public scrutiny does not consider applicants’ privacy.

“Briscoe’s narrative about his interest in protecting the health and safety of kids is misguided,” Gates said. “No disclosure of city workers’ personal information on their employment applications advances the health and safety of kids.”

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