San Jose lags on posting public records because of turnover

San Jose has fallen behind on posting certain city records with officials taking weeks to publish some public meeting videos and minutes.

The city’s public database for meeting minutes and videos has holes for several weeks. The city clerk, Toni Taber, said her department is struggling to keep up with posting meeting records, such as minutes, because of turnover in her department.

“As far as minutes, we’re short staffed. I’m down four people on my staff so we have the synopsis we get out for the council meeting, usually within the same week,” Taber told San José Spotlight. “But the official minutes are coming later because I’m short four people in my office.”

Taber said vacancies have short-changed her office’s ability to stay on track, and she’s been forced to fill the gaps while recruiting and hiring more staff.  Because of that, her staff has postponed certain tasks to keep up with lawful obligations, such as posting city agendas 72 hours prior to a City Council meeting.

“I can’t postpone Form 700. That’s a state requirement,” Taber said. “I can’t postpone posting agendas because that’s a state requirement, you guys need to know what’s coming up on the agendas. We can’t postpone paying bills.

“One thing I can postpone is the minutes because the synopsis is out,” she added. “Plus I’m posting on Facebook so I feel like the motions are all getting out there into the public.”

She said the four positions have been vacant since last year, with one position being frozen until recently. Taber said a new hire is starting this week and possibly more in the coming weeks, including one temporary position to help out in the interim.

Taber said she caught up with a handful of meeting minutes this month and expects to be fully caught up by the end of the fiscal year.

David Snyder, executive director for the First Amendment Coalition, said the delay causes problems because San Joseans “don’t have timely information about the decisions that City Council is making.”

“A multiple-week delay is highly problematic,” Snyder said. “I mean, a lot of people rely on the summaries and videos that agencies and cities put out in order to understand what’s going on in their city, and it doesn’t take a tremendous amount of work, although I acknowledge it takes some.”

He added that “it’s hard to analyze protests, questions, city actions that you don’t know about — or that you don’t know about until weeks after they happen.”

Taber said boxes of records containing council packets and other important city records sit unsorted in the clerk’s office, waiting to be catalogued so they can be stored in a warehouse. Taber inherited many of the unfiled boxes when she took over.

“We’re not getting people who are experienced from other cities, you know, applying here to work,” Taber said. “I have to train people from scratch, so it’s time consuming.”

Taber said the City Manager’s Office handles posting and updating videos on a separate page, called CivicCenterTV.

Contact Kyle Martin at kylebmartin96@gmail.com or follow him @Kyle_Martin35 on Twitter.

 

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