CA: Judge Weighs Public’s Right to Know vs. Ex-Milpitas Official’s Privacy in ‘Reverse CPRA’ Case

Public records have already established that former Milpitas City Manager Tom Williams tried to spend taxpayer money on his personal legal fees. They’ve shown that he threatened to sue his own city for $1 million in damages. And they’ve detailed the alarming allegations of harassment, retaliation and ethical lapses leveled against him by former department heads.

But there’s a trove of documents that Williams is still trying to keep secret a year after reporters first requested them under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) and seven months after he resigned amid revelations of misconduct. Those records, which pertain to his job performance, were blocked from release after Williams sued the city in April 2017 using a relatively new legal tactic known as a “reverse CPRA.”

Now, it’s up to the court to decide whether the public’s right to know what those records contain outweighs Williams’ right to privacy. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Sunil Kulkarni heard from both sides on Monday and expects to issue a ruling within the next three months.

The case would have wrapped up sooner had it not been re-assigned. Judge Aaron Persky, who heard oral arguments in October, had to recuse himself from the case after Milpitas Councilman Anthony Phan and Mayor Rich Tran endorsed a campaign to recall him from the bench. Read more…