|Maura Larkins v.
|Lawyer turns over his billing
records--with descriptions of all his
work blacked out
Attorney's bills prompt review
San Gabriel Valley Tribune, August 10, 2007
By Jennifer McLain
The city attorney in May was paid more than four times the average
monthly charge of the previous attorney, the latest billing records
Bonifacio Garcia charged Rosemead $55,000, though information on
what the money was spent for was redacted from records. He declined
to give an itemized description of the charges, citing "attorney-client
"I cannot go into detail," Garcia said. "It was $55,000 worth of work."
The city attorney was hired in April after longtime City Attorney Peter
Wallin and the firm Wallin, Kress, Reisman and Kranitz quit.
According to the records, Garcia's law firm worked 222 hours in May,
and charged between $210 and $225 per hour. Garcia also gets a
The invoice issued for May is the most recently paid. Invoices for June
and July are not yet available.
Garcia charged the city nearly $16,000 in April.
During 2005-06, Wallin, Kress, Reisman and Kranitz charged $170,579,
or $14,149 monthly, for their work as redevelopment agency and city
City officials said they were surprised at the high charge for May.
"I'm shocked that it's such a large amount," said Councilwoman
Margaret Clark. "I plan to look into where the money is going."
While Rosemead council members have access to the description of
the 76 charges listed, Garcia redacted the information from the records
the city released...
"To not justify that cost to the taxpayers is patronizing," said Jim Ewert,
general counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association...
"There may be specific instances in the itemized description where
there may be a greater public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of
that information," Ewert said. "But it is hard for me to believe that every
single item has that status."
Interim City Manager Oliver Chi would only say that Garcia blocked out
this information because it was privileged.
"There is detailed information that the city is engaged with, and (Garcia)
wanted to redact certain information so that nothing confidential would
be made public," Chi said.
Monterey Park's deputy city attorney, Adrian Guerra, said this is not an
"Generally, that type of information is protected under the attorney-client
privilege," Guerra said.
[Maura's comment: Don't you mean to say that public entity
lawyers frequently make this bogus claim? The public has
a right to know how it's money is spent.]
City officials would not comment on the redaction of the information...
|Rosemead council delays decision on law firm
San Gabriel Valley Tribune,
July 19, 2007
By Jennifer McLain
...The search comes three months after the city hired Bonifacio "Bonny"
Garcia as city attorney to represent Rosemead and its redevelopment
Garcia was brought on as lead attorney on the suggestion of Nunez.
The council did not accept any other bids for the position.
The council's decision in April drew some criticism from the
community. Residents questioned Garcia's billing practices and why
the council didn't put the contract out to bid...
According to Garcia's resume, he "is an expert on the (Ralph M.) Brown
Act, municipal governance, California conflict of interests and ethics
laws binding on elected officials, litigation and labor and employment
[Maura's Note: It seems that
most lawyers who advertise
themselves as "Brown Act
experts" are actually
offering the service of being
able to help officials get
away with Brown Act
Town unhappy with report
Wasco citizens pack council
meeting on grand jury statement
by Felix Doligosa, Jr., Californian
WASCO -- Residents yelled "the city
is unhappy" in a packed City Council
meeting Tuesday night as
discussion turned to a grand jury
report that accuses council members
and the mayor of having too many
"It's been quite a rocky two weeks
and it's getting to a point where we
need a resolution," said Tilo Cortez
Jr., vice mayor and council member
for the city.
A grand jury report stated that the
council has "far too many 'special
meetings'" that leave a perception the
city does not want public input.
On Jan. 24, the mayor, Danny Espitia,
and one or two council members met
to vote on the appointment of an
assistant city manager, fire the city
attorney and hire a new law firm,
according to the grand jury report.
The meeting was announced Jan.
23, according to the report.
The grand jury report also said
Councilman and former Mayor Fred
West Jr. met with the former finance
director to discuss his taking on the
job as interim city manager. An
unsigned contract showed up on the
former director's desk, according to
the grand jury.
The grand jury report recommends
that the City Council get additional
training on the Ralph M. Brown Act.
The state law allows very limited
closed-door meetings concerning
public business, according to the
The report also recommended that
Wasco residents get more involved in
City Council meetings, the council
stop having special meetings unless
it is an emergency and that Espitia
should stop voting until the city
receives an opinion from the Attorney
General of California.
Espitia said he does not want to
forward the report to the attorney
general because there are lies in it.
"The grand jury was misinformed," he
said. "It's wrong. They never
The grand jury said in the report that it
interviewed the mayor.
When Cortez asked if the report was
telling the truth, Espitia replied, "So
we can agree the grand jury can
make another mistake."
Dozens of citizens filled the seats
and some stood in the aisles as they
argued with council members.
"This is just not right," said Wasco
resident Susana Rios...
Garcia has made about $83,000 in
four months as the city attorney, said
Councilwoman Cherylee Wegman.
The grand jury report said Garcia
makes about four to five times more
than the previous attorney.
Garcia said he would be happy to
have an evaluation of his work
"We have to talk about what's on the
agenda," said Wegman who tried to
direct discussion toward the grand
jury report. "It's the law."
After hearing pleas from the
audience, the City Council voted to
postpone discussion of the alleged
Brown Act violations and the hiring of
Garcia until a public meeting on July
Bakersfield California, June 20, 2007
|"According to Bonny Garcia's resume, he
'is an expert on the (Ralph M.) Brown Act,
municipal governance, California conflict of
interests and ethics laws binding on
elected officials, litigation and labor and
|Many public entities in California are fond of
operating in secret.
This puts them in direct opposition to the California
Public Records Act and the
Ralph Brown Act.
|San Diego County
Office of Education
and Chula Vista
District refuse to
SDCOE-JPA released the
least important invoices for
Daniel Shinoff's work on
the Maura Larkins v.
|This timeline shows the
invoices that SDCOE
refuses to release:
Larkins case timeline.
lots of secrets,
Voice of San Diego
February 6, 2009
...This is a little story that
illustrates a bigger problem:
How well schools protect
information about their
I heard about this one from
parent Sally Smith, who
feels that the practice of
having Spanish classes
specifically for Spanish
speakers is discriminatory
and segregates them into a
separate class instead of
putting them into a more
advanced class. So she
complained to the school
district about the issue.
But the response to her
complaint ended up
annoying her just as much
-- maybe more -- and not
just because San Diego
Unified wrote back arguing
that her complaint was
unfounded and no
discrimination had occurred.
To back up its points that
students had been correctly
placed in their classes, San
Diego Unified included
some e-mails between
Spanish teachers that
revealed how individual
students had scored on
Spanish placement tests
and which of them had
failed their last English
class. The e-mails included
their full names.
Oops. Revealing student
information like that is a
major no-no under the law.
Smith was upset. And the
information was released in
November -- just after San
Diego Unified had done an
internal report that certified
that student information
was well protected and
employees understood the
rules. I called up Jose
Gonzales, deputy general
counsel for the school
district and the guy who
signed off on the complaint,
to ask what happened.
He agreed that student
records -- including test
scores and grades -- are
not supposed to be
released to outsiders. Even
to make a point.
"It was a mistake. That's all
there is to it," Gonzales said.
Feel free to tell me about
problems -- big, small and
in between -- and triumphs
in your school. You can
send me an e-mail at