March 23, 2011 (Carmichael, California)– For the third time in five years, Californians Aware (CalAware) has tested state agencies’ responses to very basic requests for public records. Analysis of the results found no measureable improvement overall-with agencies overall averaging a C+--and many flunking requirements of California’s open government laws.
“What, if anything, will Governor Brown do to make further improvements?” asks Emily Francke, executive director of CalAware.
CalAware performed the first-ever audit of state agencies’ compliance with their basic transparency obligations in 2006, finding such dismal performance overall that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued Executive Order S-03-06, requiring the retraining of all executive departments in the rudiments of the California Public Records Act. Months later, however, following that retraining, a second identical audit showed only marginal improvement, with one in six departments still failing miserably.
This January CalAware decided to perform the audit again to see whether the same 31 state agencies showed improvement on yet a third try. The audit consisted of two parts. First, a walk-in visit made a request to receive a copy of that department’s guidelines for access to its records and to view a top executive’s Form 700 Statement of Economic Interests.
Second was an e-mail request for documents showing the executive’s annual compensation and the most recent settlement or court order involving the agency. As in the prior two audits, points were deducted for each violation of law or substantial delay in providing the records.
The Departments of MentalHealth and Managed Health Care were standouts, with perfect scoresin the last two audits; followed closely by Industrial Relations and Environmental Health Hazard Assessment with only minor deductions. Some agencies did make major improvements; Air Quality rose from an F- to an A.
But others had transparency degrade; State Parks fell from an A to a D. Also performing “pitifully” according to CalAware were CalPERS and Corrections & Rehabilitation.
But the absolute bottom remains unchallenged, with the Employment Development Department scoring an F- in all three audits.
See a comparison summary of agencies’ performances in all 3 audits.