(LOS ANGELES) — Four months into a public information request that by California law was supposed to have taken only 10 days, the Freedom Foundation has filed a lawsuit to light a fire under officials at UCLA who are clearly uninterested in complying.
The action, filed on Sept. 28 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, stems from a June 4 request by Freedom Foundation outreach coordinator Rachel Wiegel seeking the following information about university employees represented by a labor union:
- full name;
- the name of the labor union purporting to represent the employees in each bargaining unit;
- work location;
- pay grade;
- institutional email; and,
- hire date.
Under the state’s public disclosure laws, the school was required to respond within 10 days by either producing the requested information; declining to provide it and citing the specific exemption under which the denial falls; or, sending the requester a written notice of extension from the head of the agency from which the information is being sought explaining the “unusual circumstances” making a delay necessary.
UCLA officials did none of the above. Instead, the Freedom Foundation request was repeatedly either ignored or responded to by mid-level staffers promising action by a given deadline — which was never met — and offering no excuse for the delays.
The Freedom Foundation is a national organization that focuses on informing government employees of recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that make once-mandatory union membership and dues voluntary for public employees.
But it can only educate them if it knows who they are.
“The university’s refusal to comply with Freedom Foundation public records requests has become standard operating procedure for government employee unions and the public agencies they dominate,” said Shella Alcabes, a Freedom Foundation attorney. “What we’re asking for is information they have no problem handing over to the union whenever it asks. But when anyone else wants it, they stall.”
Most requesters, she explained, don’t have the resources to endure endless delays — or file suit for what should be publicly accessible. But the Freedom Foundation refuses to be deterred.
The organization has taken similar action in San Bernardino County and against the California Department of Human Resources, where personnel officials are also attempting to ignore legal information requests.
“We have just as much right to know who these employees are as the unions do,” Alcabes said. “We have a right to provide public employees with an alternative to the one-sided union propaganda they’re getting now — and they have a right to hear it.
“The unions may not know it yet,” Alcabes concluded, “but the monopoly they’ve enjoyed for too long over the flow of information to government employees is over.”