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Richmond Councilman Tries To Open Records
September 10, 1996


Tuesday, September 10, 1996
Section: news
Page: A03

RICHMOND Councilman Tom Butt has proposed changes in a local ordinance that would make it easier for the public to get information out of City Hall.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the matter at tonight's 7 p.m. meeting.

"Any citizen who takes an active interest in government and in making it better can't do it unless he has full access," Butt said Monday. "You have to have the facts in order to be involved."

Governmental agencies are required to provide certain kinds of information to the public upon request, under the California Public Records Act.

A measure designed to make access to Richmond records easier and cheaper was introduced by Councilwoman Donna Powers and approved by voters in 1993.

Butt's measure would strengthen that ordinance.

For instance, Butts wants to change the ordinance where it says information "may be released" to "shall be released."

It may seem like a minor point, but it's important, Butt said.

"What's happened is the city staff has really not embraced (the ordinance) with alacrity," he said. "Anything they can fall back on to use as an excuse not to divulge information, I want to get rid of."

Butt also wants to allow members of the public to tape record interviews with city staff.

In addition, he proposes to add a section to the current ordinance that releases residents from fear of sanctions if they sue to get information.

Butt himself was forced to pay $4,000 for city attorney's fees after he filed suit to get public information from Richmond in 1994. An appellate court ruled that a portion of Butt's request was "frivolous."

Butt said he wants to spare others such an experience.

"It scares people off," he said. "I'm sure not gonna do it again."

Tonight's meeting is in the council chamber at City Hall, 2600 Barrett Ave.