Claremont Insider: September 2007

Sunday, September 30, 2007

CMC Gets $200 Million

The L.A. Times reported last week on Claremont McKenna College receiving a $200 million donation from philanthropist Robert Day. Day is the grandson of William Myron Keck, who in 1921 founded Superior Oil Co.

So, now CMC isn't just hot. It's loaded, too.

The gift is the largest ever given to a liberal arts college and will be used to fund CMC's first graduate program and to hire eight professors for the program. Additionally, the money will be used to fund senior grants for up to 50 students from any of the five undergraduate schools at the Claremont Colleges. The students receiving the grants will be called Robert Day Scholars.

The FC Blog had a good write up of the CMC news and of the debate that has ensued. Apparently, a number of students and faculty have expressed concerns about the money changing the nature of CMC.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

More Alvarez

A reader sent us this link to the FBI's press release regarding the charge against Xavier Alvarez, the Three Valleys Municipal Water District board member from Pomona who is alleged to have made false claims of being a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.

The press release states that Alvarez could face up to a year in federal prison if convicted.

This link shows that Alvarez made the FBI's top ten stories of last week. See item number 7; the title uses the "lying" word.

The release also indicates that Alvarez's statements were made at the Three Valleys board meeting where he was introduced after being newly elected. This is slightly different from the news accounts which had reported the statement was made at the July 23rd Walnut Valley Water District meeting. It is possible, it occurs to us, that some government PR person doesn't really distinguish and divide 'twixt "Three Valleys" and "Walnut Valley".

Restaurant Review

Meg at the M-M-M-My Pomona blog (hey, did they lose an "M"?) has a good review of the new Casablanca restaurant in the Claremont Village Expansion (née Village West).

One of Meg's complaints was the service, which we've noticed in Claremont is almost uniformly bad. One of our theories is that the large student population leads to a transient wait staff population. Very few develop any sense of professionalism.

Whatever the reason, we've noticed in several downtown Claremont restaurants - the wait staff busy chatting with each other about last night's whatever while customers sit stewing.

We had this experience a few months ago one Saturday night at Kinya, the Japanese restaurant at the corner of Indian Hill and Bonita. The restaurant was not very crowded, and there were two waitresses with not a lot to do.

WAIT was the operative word. Waiting for our orders to be taken, waiting for our drinks, waiting for our food, waiting to order additional items, waiting for the bill, which never came (we had to get up and disturb the two waitresses who were behind the register talking). All in all, it was a terrible dining experience. The food itself was decent enough, but the service was inexcusable.

Then we found this review of Kinya on Yahoo!:


OK: To be honest my first experience was bad. I had hair in my salad and received no response. Not even an apology. I gave them a second chance and it's been ok. Not great, just ok. I've definitely had better.


* * *


Meg also has some opinions about the Village Expansion ("it's still a mall"), which strike us a mostly true. The Claremont Museum in the Packing House is fine enough, but as the expansion shapes up, you do worry about the chain stores detracting from the Old Village's uniqueness.

There's also the comments we've heard from several longtime residents who are reminded of the Old Schoolhouse's last renovation and long decline. Something about the shops going into the Packing House don't really strike us as the sorts of things that will have legs.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Wanted in Claremont: Thick Skins

Gary Scott, who used to report for the Claremont Courier and who was the political editor for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, has an article in the Daily Journal today about gadfly blogs and the struggles local governments are having in dealing with them.

The Foothill Cities blog was mentioned, as was our own humble e-rag.

Scott's article showed that the blogosphere is clearly on the minds of cities and their attorneys:

Recent posts on an Internet bulletin board for city attorneys illustrates the struggles they face trying to respond to client concerns. The first lesson is that bloggers, even those who cloak themselves in anonymity, are afforded broad free-speech protections. The second lesson is that any effort to block, thwart or silence a blogger usually provides them with their best material.

.....

Roy Hanley, attorney for the cities of Solvang and King City, agreed a public fight should be avoided.

"You will never hear the end of it," Hanley said. "Nobody feels sorry for public officials with thin skin."


Scott interviewed a number of city attorneys for the article, and the best quote came from Pomona City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman, who had a notable feud earlier this year with the guys at the FC blog. Alvarez-Glasman (no relation to Xavier Alvarez, as far we know), gave this advice:


The lesson, Alvarez-Glasman tells his colleagues: "After going through all of this, my personal advice would be to have your clients develop [or purchase] some very thick skin."

Not that there's much of a chance for that in Claremont, given the high opinions the Claremont 400 types have of themselves. They just can't help themselves.

Alvarez Camp Takes down Web Pages in Record Time. See Them Here.

Somebody is making up stories," said Alvarez... "What you got there is a bunch of crap."
Well, yes.

Three Valleys Municipal Water District I Director Xavier Alvarez made the above statement in answer to the accusation that he has claimed to be a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. See our post from yesterday morning.

The Insider is well familiar with the beauties of ambiguous speech. In the blog business, you have to be adept at hedging and maintaining plausible deniability. (I said that? I didn't mean it that way!)

We believe this statement is an admission by Alvarez. Let's parse it: "Somebody is making up stories (yes, Xavier Alvarez). "What you got there is a bunch of crap." (the whole Congressional Medal of Honor fairy tale) Alvarez is finally telling the truth.


* * *


We get the feeling you'll be hearing a lot more of this story as it develops. More people are coming forward who have heard Alvarez's claims, and we are sure there are some in Claremont.

Usually people spinning yarns don't stop at one fairy tale. You normally get layer upon layer of fabrication. From what we know, Alvarez's fabrications have been building for some time, elaboration upon elaboration. Already the Daily Bulletin has gotten him to admit that he was never in the military, and has raised large questions about his claimed membership in the American Legion. Look for a lot more fantastic claims to come out.

As if to prove our point, the news coming out today includes interviews with two veterans and one of his fellow board members, all of whom say they've heard Alvarez making statements about his combat military exploits. One interviewee said he and his buddies took to derisively calling Alvarez "Rambo."


* * *

What Alvarez's people don't want you to see: Our modest contribution to this dialogue yesterday morning was a set of three links to three web pages put up by a supporter of Alvarez. In what must be a record time of under six hours--even beating the City of Claremont in rapid response--the web pages were taken down by 5 p.m. Fortunately, the Insider is a packrat and downloaded the web pages and screenshots. They decorate this post. Click on the images for readable versions. By the way, here is a screenshot of the statement by the Alvarez supporter who put the web pages up, and who presumably took them down yesterday:





Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Latest Oliver "Twist"

It is common knowledge at Claremont City Hall, and may even have been announced--as City Manager Jeff Parker apparently announced the General Fund appropriation of $1,200,000 last June for Johnson's Pasture--by a posting in some obscure place on the City website, that city finance man Matt Hawkesworth is leaving Claremont for greener pastures in Rosemead.

At Council meeting last Tuesday, we hear, Sam Pedroza tried to recognize Hawkesworth's impending resignation when Hawkesworth finished his report on City finances. Unfortunately for Pedroza, and Hawkesworth, the Hallelujah Chorus of the city council was having none of this maudlin exercise, and no one joined in the usually-obligatory statements of regret and wishes of good luck.

What is the Oliver "twist"? Former Claremont colleague Oliver Chi, now city manager in Rosemead, has lured Hawkesworth away with the title--and we presume more cash than his 2006 compensation in Claremont of $116,000 and $40,000 in benefits--of Assistant City Manager. We look forward to Oliver's statement welcoming Matt; it could be a little stronger than his statement about Rosemead temporary employee Steve Brisco: "If there was any malfeasance, Steve would have been the one indicted..." (We know this sounds terrible; please go read the full quote.)

We don't know if the other recent Claremont hire-away by Oliver Chi, Aileen Flores, formerly public information officer in the Fifth Best City has adopted the haircut (or if Chi any longer sports one), but it appears that Rosemead perhaps is becoming the City Governed by Spiky-Haired Administrators.

Pomona Medal of Dishonor

A scandal is a'-brewin' involving one of the directors of the Three Valleys Municipal Water District, the public agency that wholesales water to the Claremont, Pomona, and other local areas.

The Daily Bulletin reports that Three Valleys director Xavier Alvarez was charged with a misdemeanor yesterday for falsely claiming he had won a Congressional Medal of Honor. Alvarez denies the charge.

The article states the charge stems from public comments Alvarez made at a July 23rd Walnut Valley Water District meeting. The comments were reportedly captured on audio tape.

Alvarez's biography on the Three Valleys website (click on "Meet the Board" on the left) claims that he is a member of American Legion Post 1000 and the American Veterans. But in the Bulletin article, Alvarez admits he was never in the military.

Alvarez is a close political ally of Pomona mayor Norma Torres and ran unsuccessfully for Pomona City Council in 2002.

On a couple of modest web pages first noticed by the Insider late last Spring, but apparently posted around a year ago in connection with Alvarez's run for the Three Valleys seat, there is a reference connecting Alvarez to the Congressional Medal of Honor claim. (Note: Alvarez had this page taken down today.) We realize that this website is NOT Alvarez's own work--and that the claim here is not his own--but taken as a whole the site appears to show his collaboration. It also shows that the "story" of the Medal has been on the street for some months.

Here are the links. Don't expect the pages to stay up too long after they are noticed here. Remember how long it took the City of Claremont to pull the plug on its website after we posted the paystubs found on it? First Alvarez webpage. Second Alvarez webpage. Third Alvarez webpage with reference to Medal of Honor.

(Note: Alvarez had these web pages taken down less than six hours after our humble post. Watch this space for new links; we saved the web pages and have screenshots.)

See the removed web pages HERE.

Alvarez represents Pomona on the Three Valleys board. The elected board represents the cities of Azusa, Claremont, Covina, Diamond Bar, Glendora, Industry, La Verne, Pomona, Rowland Heights, San Dimas, Walnut and West Covina.

The Three Valleys board meets the third Wednesday of each month at its building at 1021 Miramar Ave. in Claremont.

Claremont Capsule

The City of Claremont is preparing to unearth a 1983 time capsule on Wednesday, October 3rd at 5pm at City Hall. The capsule was buried near the City Hall flag pole.

A new capsule designed by Claremont Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Taylor's son Matthew Taylor (can you spell N-E-P-O-T-I-S-M?) will be sealed up and placed in the City Hall foyer as a bench. Apparently, this year's capsule is too nice to be buried, and we will not get into the respect exhibited by hundreds of people over the years sitting on the time capsule.

City Hall officials are taking ideas for things to put in the new capsule. Taking a cue from our city bird, the ostrich, here are the Insider's suggestions:


Have your own ideas about what should go in the new Matthew Taylor time capsule? Contact Claremont Centennial Celebration Committee member Sylvia Hernandez at (909) 399-5498 or email her at shernandez@ci.claremont.ca.us.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mailbag

We got these emails in from a recent candidate Claremont City Council regarding the marijuana news we've posted over the past couple days:


Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2007 20:45:34 -0700 (PDT)
From: "michael keenan"
Subject: What a conspiracy. You sound like a Claremont 400
To:claremontbuzz@yahoo.com

Dear ClaremontBuzz,

Really love your guilt by association trip with Marijuana Monday's so-called "complete picture." Puts you up there with Best Best and Krieger's report" and using Claremont 400 techniques! Have you puffed a big fat one!

Try something a little more reasonable: http://www.americansforsafeaccess.org/downloads/dispensaries.pdf

Without access you are forcing patients into the Asian gang direction. What patient wants to buy from any gang member.

Michael Keenan


And this:


Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2007 11:51:46 -0700 (PDT)
From: "michael keenan"
Subject: Re: What a conspiracy. You sound like a Claremont 400
To: "Claremont Buzz" claremontbuzz@yahoo.com

Dear Claremont Buzz...,

It would appear currently that Congress and the Supreme Court are at odds and that this is even more complicated and complex. Bear in mind that even the coauthor of prop 215 admits that medical marijuana should be rescheduled on the federal list.

Congress
http://www.americansforsafeaccess.org/article.php?id=5062

Decision by Supreme Court
http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/03-1454.ZS.html

My support for a non-profit clinic is based on my belief that "we (Claremont) should relieve as many as we can." Thomas Jefferson once admitted that he had almost been taken in by the aristocratic lifestyle in France and that his “head” has made him do wrong. What about the “poor wearied soldier… with that pack on his back that begged us to let him get up behind our chariot,” Heart reminds. Head has calculated that “the road is full of soldiers, and that if all should be taken up our horses would fail in their journey. We drove on therefore.” Realizing that a wrong had been committed Heart counters “that though we cannot relieve all the distressed we should relieve as many as we can.” (My emphasis) Unable to return and find the “poor wearied soldier,” Heart laments “and from that moment to this I could never find him out to ask his forgiveness.”

I stand by my position and give ClaremontInsider permission to use my name, Michael Keenan.

Happy Trails,
Michael Keenan

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More Green News

The Daily Bulletin continues its "Green Valley" series today with an article that focuses on the confusion created by the ways local governments choose to interpret state and federal laws on marijuana possession and use.

______________________


And, in other green news of a different flavor, the Bulletin also had a little blurb noting that Robert Redford spoke at Pitzer College yesterday. Redford was here for the ribbon cutting ceremony for the three new Pitzer dorms, which have drawn a lot of attention nationally for their environmentally friendly designs.

The dorms meet the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. They feature the use of recycled materials, energy-efficient heating and cooling designs, and water-conserving fixtures.

The LA Times mentioned the Pitzer dorms in an article on August 23rd, and NPR ran a story about the dorms as well. The NPR story described Pitzer as being located a "50 miles east of Los Angeles in the desert town of Claremont."

Monday, September 24, 2007

Marijuana Monday

The Daily Bulletin has been running a series of articles on marijuana appropriately titled "Grass Valley."

There a group videos on their website that feature an interview with Rancho Cucamonga resident Ed Hill with his views on marijuana dispensaries, film of a police bust of a pot farm, an interview with Mira Loma medical marijuana patient George Agatep, a video of police serving search warrants on a Pomona medical marijuana dispensary, and an interview with Rancho Cucamonga Mayor Don Kurth. (NOTE: The videos may slow down your computer's performance.)

The Don Kurth interview, which comes at the end of the string of videos, is especially interesting. The video states that when he was 20, Mayor Kurth was an alcoholic and marijuana and heroin user before going into rehab. Kurth sees merits in favor of medical-use marijuana, but also worries about abuse of the dispensaries by people who perhaps don't really need the marijuana for medical reasons.

The videos and articles paint a pretty complete picture of the debate over the medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as the ongoing problems with illegal marijuana farms in the Inland Empire and the San Gabriel Valley.

For some time now we've heard of pot farms being discovered in upscale bedroom communities in our area. These farms are large-scale operations with thousands of plants and pirated electricity to power grow lamps.

Will Bigham has an article in today's Bulletin on the subject. Bigham's article indicates Asian organized crime gangs are behind many of these operations, which require significant capital outlays and expertise in setting up the farms. According to the article, the pot farms are used by the crime syndicates to generate cash, which is then pumped into other parts of their operations.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Reader Mail

A former Palmer Canyon resident wrote in with some recollections about living in the area. The note includes some observations about some past events involving Claremont and Claremonters, past and present:

Thanks Claremont Insider for exposing Claremont's dirty secrets. I am a former homeowner of Palmer Canyon who lost my home to the rand Prix/Padua Wildfire. Long before the fire got us we had a long & acrimonious relationship w/ city officials. We simply did not fit into the master plan of North East Claremont - w/ it's half acre parcels, five & six thousand sq. ft. pretentious monstrosities whose motto should be consume more & more. I worked as a contractor for many years when I lived in Claremont.

I had the extreme misfortune of working for [a local home builder], who during this period in the late eighties had gotten his third DUI conviction that would result in Claremont's Chief of Police losing his job & Peter Popoff, who had just moved to the Blaisdell development after filing for Bankruptcy protection from his exposed televangelist scam. (One of his cronies actually bought it for him.) Blaisdell, of course, one of Claremont's first attempts at large scale development has seen highly criticized for it's total lack of any kind of architectural continuity. It was a typical Southern California land grab w/ all the avarice mixed in. Twenty thousand sq. ft. lots that sold for $80,000 in the mid eighties were going for $400,000 & up by the end of the decade.

It goes on & on - Snoop Dogg lived just down the street. He was up on a Murder One charge but had Johnnie Cochran for legal council & was acquitted. Just down the street DEA John Jackson was popped for selling drugs w/ two cohorts. A dermatologist got in trouble for taking porno pictures of his kids. The guy who owns the Toyota dealership in Claremont has a cozy relationship w/ a land broker selling the last large chunk of land on Padua buys it flips it & makes a huge profit in the course of weeks. There is some truly evil stuff going-just scratch that very thin veneer of civility to reveal it.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

CUSD Board of Education Election

The candidates for November's Claremont Unified School District Board of Education got together Thursday night at a candidate forum hosted by Active Claremont. The Daily Bulletin gave a rundown on the event.

There are three candidates vying for two seats.

By all accounts, it was a pretty pedestrian affair, with the candidates in agreement on most of the issues. There aren't any crises facing the district, and no one seems to want to touch the issue of another school construction bond.

(The $48.9 million from the 2001 Measure Y bond is all gone, partly through misspending by the Claremont 400-controlled CUSD board. As we've pointed out in the past, the district has spent all the money without completing some of the projects they said the money was urgently needed for. But we good Claremonters don't tal about that in polite company.)

So, the event will be, like most Claremont elections, the equivalent of a high school popularity contest. The three all seem likable, they seem to be in agreement on the issues, so take a look at the candidates' qualifications, which is the only factor separating them at this point.

We're getting that Carnac feeling again. (It's not too hard to figure out the dynamics of these things.) We'll post our forecast the day before the election. Let's see if we've got the right read on it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Marijuana Update

Claremont continues to move towards establishing an ordinance to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.

Sort of.

The City Council at its last meeting September 11th voted to extend Claremont's moratorium on the dispensaries. The moratorium was ending this month, but the council action last week added another year to the ban.

In the meantime, according to Tony Krickl in last Saturday's Claremont Courier, city staff will work on the ordinance, which Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker estimated would take six or seven months to put together and get to the City Council for a vote.

The Krickl article (not posted online) quoted City Councilmember Linda Elderkin, who along with Councilmembers Sam Pedroza and Ellen Taylor voted to establish the marijuana ordinance:

"I am only interested in a very restrictive ordinance that allows just those who are truly in need of this service to benefit," council member Linda Elderkin said.


One gets the impression that Elderkin, Pedroza and Taylor may be regretting their vote, which was not overwhelmingly popular among rank-and-file Claremonters. If past performance is any indicator, you can expect the city to drag out the ordinance process and come up with something so restrictive as to make it prohibitive. Something like requiring dispensaries to have a licensed medical doctor on site at all times, or some other such requirement that would be impossible to meet.

This gives Elderkin and friends the illusion of having made a law without actually having to come up with working one. At least, that's our predication. Let's see how it plays out.

Jena Protest

Will Bigham in the Daily Bulletin today reports on Thursday's protests at the Claremont Colleges in support of the Jena, La., protests, where approximately 3,000 people took to the streets over racial tensions there.

The Bulletin article sketched out the events in Jena that have stirred up the community and the country. Here's an NPR story that fleshes out the events in more detail.

The Bulletin's website also offers a photo gallery of the Claremont protest as well as a video.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Brief Sighting of Martin Weinberger

We were poking around the website for the Claremont Courier the other day, looking for some news that was fit to print. While there, we noticed the reference to this video on the bottom of the home page.

We were surprised and pleased to see that it featured a short recent scene with Martin Weinberger reflecting on the changes in Claremont.

It was great to see again the crusty old editor and publisher--now listed as co-owner--of the Courier. While the years are obviously flowing rather relentlessly on, we are reminded that Mr. Weinberger has owned and operated the Courier for over 50 years. We are not looking this up, but our recollection is that he bought the paper towards the beginning of 1955. His mark on the paper and on this community is huge. Councilmembers and college presidents have come and gone, businesses have sprouted, grown, flourished, and died, and still Martin Weinberger has put out two newspapers a week, every week.

We were a little surprised and disappointed that the community didn't make a bigger deal of 50 years of Mr. Weinberger's ownership of the Courier when that milestone passed a couple of years ago. He deserves our continued thanks.

This article from La Verne Magazine done in 2005 is a nice story of Martin Weinberger and his newspaper. It appears that his tragic flaw is being a Yankees fan. Well, he is only human and has human failings.

We suggest you take a look at the Courier video here. Be sure to pay attention at the very last when Mr. Weinberger gets his closeup. If you see the years in his face, it is because that face has seen and those hands have chronicled everything that has happened in this town for over five decades.

We wish him well.

Casa 425 Opens Today

Hotel Casa 425, the new, 28-room boutique hotel in the Claremont Village Expansion, opens its doors today.

Will Bigham in the Daily Bulletin reports on the grand opening. The hotel is pretty upscale, but rest assured the 425 doesn't refer to the price, though a premier executive room with a private meeting area gets you close - $400 a night. Bigham's article says that the rooms' starting rates are being discounted from $175 to $135 through October.

You can read more about Casa 425 at their website, or you can see a photo gallery on the Bulletin's site.


Hotel Casa 425
425 W. 1st St.
Claremont, CA 91711

(866) 450-0425
info@casa425.com

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Rewriting History

We suppose we are old-fashioned in thinking that City of Claremont news releases ought to be taken seriously. We have been impressed recently the the City news has been larded with spin, half-truths, and double-speak. Even the City Manager's Report, which used to circulate to the councilmembers and give them real information has degenerated into just another happy-face press release since it was made available to the community on the website.

A reader forwarded a note from a prominent Claremonter questioning the City's "Johnson's Pasture" press release of last Friday. The sugar-coated PR bureaucratese read:

...This project was only possible because of the devoted efforts of Claremont residents who approved Measure S and the hard work of the business community, community groups, and the Claremont Colleges. [emphasis added]
The problem is, the business community, if by "business community" you mean the Chamber of Commerce, did not support Measure S. Measure S, which provided the authority to issue the bonds that paid the bulk of the cost of Johnson's Pasture, won by a 71% to 29% majority. The Chamber Board did endorse the failed "Parks and Pasture" assessment district, which was rejected by property owners in July 2006 by a 56% to 44% margin.

So you have the Chamber Board endorsing a failed measure, and failing to endorse a successful measure with the overwhelming support of the voters in the community. That sounds like being out of touch to us.

(This is not to slight the many individual business owners who supported and voted for Measure S. We appreciate your commitment and contributions to our community. But take a look at your leadership and hold it accountable.)

All in all, we suppose it's just another day in the Wonderland of the Claremont 400, where words mean just what they choose them to mean, no more and no less.

Non-$1 Million, Non-Stub News

Catching up on other Claremont news, spanning the cultural spectrum:

Eugene R. Sheppard, an associate professor of modern Jewish history at Brandeis University, will be speaking tonight at 6:45pm at Claremont McKenna College as part of the Marion Cook Athenaeum speaker series. The lecture's entitled "Leo Strauss and Judaism: Epicureanism and Its Discontents."


Marion Miner Cook Athenaeum
385 E. 8th St.Claremont, CA 91711-6420
(909) 621-8244
athenaeum@claremontmckenna.edu

_______________________


The Daily Bulletin noted that Claremonter Jared Cicon won $5,700 for being a semi-finalist in a Heinz ketchup ad contest. Cicion' ad was shown Monday on NBC's The Today Show, according to the Bulletin's Will Bigham.

The winner, Andrew Dodson of Wheelersburg, OH, got $57,000, and Dodson's was shown during ABC's telecast of the emmy awards this past Sunday.

You can see all the ads on the Heinz's Top This TV Challenge site.

_______________________


A reader also sent a link to this video of Britney Spears and a friend on a road trip from Beverly Hills to Pomona College's Bridges Auditorium on the celebrity video site X17video.com. Spears was using Bridges as a rehearsal space for a performance of the MTV Video Musica Awards, according to Will Bigham.

For those of you with voyueristic tendencies, you can watch Spears and Co. stopping at a Charo Chicken drive-thru for a quick nosh, and then later popping into a liquor store for another snack. It's sort of like a wildlife documentary.

_______________________

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Claremont, Google and the DMCA

The runaround we've received from Google regarding our posting of City of Claremont employee pay information has us wondering if Claremont City Attorney Sonia Carvalho invoked the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) when she contacted Google with a complaint about our original post.

Under the DMCA, a company that hosts a website can be protected from litigation if they immediately remove the material in question after receiving a complaint of a copyright violation. This so-called "takedown provision" should contain the following language:

I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above on the infringing web pages is not authorized by my registered copyright and by the law. I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner of an exclusive right that is infringed.

Kembrew McLeod, a University of Iowa communications professor had an opinion piece in today's Los Angeles Times. The article talked about how individuals and corporations can abuse the DMCA by making false claims of copyright infringement. McLeod's article used an example of a YouTube video that was taken down. YouTube, like Blogger, is owned by Google. These abuses, according to McLeod, amount to a kind of censorship.

Don't like something someone has posted on a website? Just contact the company hosting the site, in our case Google's Blogger, and use the DMCA takedown provision. Threaten litigation if the offending material is not removed, and you can silence people saying and posting things you don't want said.

The central issue in our case is that Google has claimed that the images we posted of City of Claremont pay stubs were copyrighted. Google allowed us to repost the original piece minus the pay stub images. From this we can infer that a DMCA complaint had been filed. Both Google and the City of Claremont have refused to release the text of the actual complaint.

We would argue, if we could see the actual complaint, that the copyright complaint is a false one. The images in question are government forms, not copyrighted creative material. Of course, we are not even allowed to see what the complaints against us are.

Further, if the City Attorney did in fact falsely invoke the DMCA using the language we cited above, it's not surprising she would not want to disclose the complaint. The phrases "good faith" and "penalty of perjury" might come back to haunt her.

Ironic, isn't it, that Claremont, which professes to be a Progressive community, acted in an Orwellian fashion, making complaints that can't be rebutted or addressed, and falsely invoking a law that does not apply in this case.

Kembrow McLeod's article noted: "When people make overreaching copyright claims just to censor speech they don't like, they are abusing the law."

It's bad enough when the overreachers are private entities, but it's especially chilling when a government body abuses its power to cut off the free dissemination of information.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Claremont's $1,000,000 Mistake

Friend, some of your folding money has come unstowed.
---from the movie, "Brother, Where Art Thou?".
As first made public in a late-Friday news release by the City of Claremont that attempted to surf the end of the news cycle, and as picked up by Will Bigham in Saturday's Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, the City had to scurry late last week to find $1,000,000 to put into escrow in order to close on the 183-acre Johnson's Pasture property.

The story in Bigham's article is that the money came from the City general fund reserves. The reason was that the City and property owners had written and agreed to deed language that lowered the market value of the property below what it had been. Basically, the owners were selling a piece of property that could not be developed, according to the language. Therefore, the State withdrew its grant offer of $1,000,000 since the land was already protected by the deed.

This appallingly expensive fiasco is due to monumental incompetence on the part of City staff and the City Council.

One would think that after the months-long set-piece battle over a previous appraisal of the property with the State Wildlife Conservation Board--the State agency with millions to hand out--the City would be sensitive to factors that reduce the value of the property such as access and deed restrictions. But no.

It is a little murky how the deed language came about. The most believable scenario is that Claremont 2007 Honored Citizen Suzanne Thompson (head of the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy) pushed for this language and got part-owner Deborah Lynn Robinson to put the language in the deed.

But where is the adult supervision? Where is the cracker-jack and highly-paid staff? Shouldn't staff had known that such language would put the $1,000,000 state grant at risk? Was this part of the discussion councilmembers Linda Elderkin and Ellen Taylor had with owner Deborah Robinson last June?--the quiet negotiations.

Fast-forward to September. The $9.75 million in bonds were sold last month. With the quarter-million from the CWC and a half-million from Los Angeles County, plus a bit from the Claremont Colleges also in escrow, the City was relying on the $1,000,000 State grant to complete the $11.5 million funding. Bad news from Sacramento: the land you are purchasing has a deed restriction that makes it less valuable. The former appraisal is no longer any good. The State can't participate in a deal that pays above market for property.

We hear from our sources up north that there was a lot of visiting of legislative and agency offices by City Staff last week in Sacramento, when they were all up there for the League of Cities Expo, but they couldn't get anyone interested in helping. The Wildlife Conservation Board was right; no one wanted to die on that hill.

Now the interesting part. You'd think that this whole issue would merit mention at September 11th's City Council meeting. If you thought that, you'd be wrong. Nary a word. The City Manager, "Mr. Transparency" Jeff Parker pointedly said he had nothing to report. Come on, escrow is about to close in two or three days, we are a million dollars short, and there is no public discussion of it?

Now we read in the City press release that
the City used $1 million from the general fund to complete the purchase.
What's that all about??? What is the legal basis for going into the general fund to the tune of $1,000,000???? Doesn't that require some public discussion, and maybe a vote of the governing body (City Council)????? Can Matt Hawkesworth or Jeff Parker just write a check for $1,000,000 with no action by Council??????

We don't see any emergency here. We don't see any proper closed session issue; in any event, the one closed session since this issue broke did NOT have this on the agenda. We don't see any reason to play hide-the-ball with this issue. We do know that the Johnson's Pasture funding discussion for two years did NOT include general fund monies, and now, in the last two weeks, in apparently unilateral and secret decisions by--whom?--Peter Yao, Jeff Parker, Matt Hawkesworth, Linda Elderkin, Ellen Taylor, The general fund is a million bucks lighter.

What's going on here? Has incompetence morphed into illegality?

On Notice

Thanks to the Foothill Cities blog for turning us on to this:

Created with the Colbert "On Notice" generator

Hey, you! You're on notice!

Claremont Clams Up

Check out the Claremont Sunshine Counter in the margin to the left. On Friday, 9/7/07, the city of Claremont cut off access to its online document archive. It has remained off-line ever since. Will the city restore it? Or will they use their false claims of theft and hacking to do away with the archive? Time will tell.

Catching Up

RIPPLES IN AN e-POND

Paystubgate continued to spread over the Internet this weekend. Locally, M-M-M-M-M-My Pomona picked up on it and had these things to say in their Saturday post:

Slashdot has gotten hold of Paystubgate (the flap over Claremont Insider's posting of paystub information gained from the city's website, and the city's subsequent demand that Google remove the post). 122 comments in 12 hours, as of now.

.....

I generally take Claremont Insider with a grain of salt; the rhetoric is often too hot-headed to be all that persuasive. But the way that the city of Claremont has responded to the whole affair suggests I review my credence-giving policy toward the Insider. Somehow I imagine that wasn't what the city had in mind, but it's just desserts.

We also received this note from Dave Mastio, an editor at the BlogNewsNetwork, a news aggregator:


Check out www.blognetnews.com/california -- the city of Claremont can stick it.

We don't take down the result of legitimate reporting by blogs.

Best,

Dave Mastio

Looking back a little further, there was this post last week on El Opinador Complusivo:

Blogger, Google y censura

Un blogger local no le pierde pisada a las autoridades de la ciudad. Postea como anónimo y tiene loco a City Hall. Miren lo que pasó esta semana, cuando la ciudad se quejó directamente a Blogger y la empresa retiró el post del autor del blog. Hora de mudarse para los muchachos del Insider.


CLAREMONT MAYOR GOES FISHIN'

Saturday's Courier carried its usual Claremont City Council report for the council's meeting last Tuesday night (the article isn't posted on-line).

Reporter Tony Krickl noted that the city is using outside IT professionals to confirm how the Insider obtained the documents. We see this as a positive development, and we're looking forward to the city's apology for having falsely accused the Insider of theft.

Of course, once they have the proof of the sourcing (their own public website), they'll bury it so deep Vulcan Materials Co. won't find it.

The article quoted Mayor Yao threatening a lawsuit against the Insider:

"I think the task before the council is to find where the leak took place and move on with the business of running the city," Mayor Peter Yao said. If suing is part of that process to find out where that happened, we are not afraid to use that as a vehicle."

Pardon our ignorance, but doesn't that sound like a fishing expedition? Doesn't the lawsuit usually come after the investigation is done and a cause of action is established? Since the city has already been informed of the source of the information, they know or will soon know that they themselves are the source of the leak.

The Krickl article also showed that the city continues to harp on the issue of privacy:

Some of the pay stubs contained private information, city officials say, such as social security numbers or figures on how the employees choose to distribute their pay into various retirement funds or savings accounts. Although none of that information was posted on the blogger's website, city officials are concerned that it could be in the future.

So here the city is acknowledging that none of the information we posted in our original "Labor Day" post contained private information. The city also falsely claims that some of the pay stubs had social security numbers on them.

As you saw in our Sunday editorial, the stubs do not have any fields for social security number or any other personal information. And as to the city's claims that we might post other pay stubs in the future, they have not contacted us to request the information back, nor have they written us with the specific information that they consider confidential.

If nothing else, this entire matter has been a great illustration of exactly why we have been critical of the city in the past. Claremont has too often operated under an irrational, illogical process that is at odds with the town's fluffed up, sanitized self-image.

One thing's for sure, you won't see this stuff on Huell Howser.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Editorial

Pay Stub News Continues

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Okay, before anyone starts with their judgments, let's all take a minute and look at the image above. It's a city of Claremont pay stub with all individual information redacted. Now does anyone see a blank field for Social Security information? Date of birth? Home address? Home telephone? No. Nothing. Nada.

And, don't forget, this and 282 others were posted in a downloadable .pdf file on the city of Claremont's on-line document archive for anyone in the world to access. And there were dozens of these .pdfs on the city's website - one for every two week pay period going back at least a couple years. A search of the public archive for the terms "Jeffrey Parker performance" turned up the pay stubs.

The city has continued its claims that the information was somehow leaked to us or that we stole the material. Claremont's claims are false, and we believe they know the claims are baseless. After it's initial reaction on Friday, 9/7, city officials backed off referring the matter to the Claremont Police Department. Their press release issued on Monday, 9/10, made no mention of this blog and only spoke vaguely of "recent events" showing a "breach of confidentiality."

And Google, which pulled the initial posting that included two pay stub images, reversed course on why it censored our blog, first saying that the images contained confidential information, then claiming that the post was removed because the images were copyrighted.

Neither the city nor Google have responded to our requests that they provide us with the specifics of the city's complaint. We've received no email from the city or their attorney, Sonia Carvalho, telling us what information is confidential or seeking to work with us to verify the source of the information.

Instead, the city has had its IT people checking. Of course, we have to wonder, are these the same IT people responsible for posting the information in the first place? If so, you will likely never know the truth. Remember the movie "Breach?"

We believe that the city, when it pulled the plug on its on-line archive after we accessed the pay stub document, made some change in its system that prevents the search from pulling up the pay documents. How hard is it to identify all the changes that have been made in their system since the last week in August, when we pulled the material and then undo them long enough to conduct a test?

And the search takes a while. It's searching through decades of scanned documents. Are the city's IT geniuses even bothering let the search run?


Carvalho And The Ol' Misdirection

One thing is obvious to even the most casual observer: the city attorney is providing some highly questionable advice to her client. Carvalho's shifting rationales for withholding the original complaint to Google don't bear up to scrutiny. First, she claims a non-existent attorney-client privilege. But the complaint was between Carvalho and Google, a third-party, not her client, the city of Claremont.

Then, she apparently claimed the material was copyrighted. But government forms apparently aren't copyrightable.

Lastly, she seems to be setting up a claim that her complaint is attorney work product.

All of this lawyerly footwork has prompted some comments on the Internet. The Slashdot website carried this comment from an attorney yesterday under a discussion thread titled, "Wow, that is one clueless lawyer":

...more ridiculous is the City attorney's refusal to release her communications with Google, citing "attorney-client privilege." Any communication shared with a third party (i.e., someone other than the lawyer or client) is automatically not privileged. She starts to set up a claim for attorney work product by explaining how Google might become adverse, but again, a communication with a third party -- particularly the adverse party -- cannot be covered by the AWP doctrine.

I thought it was hard to pass the California bar, how did these idiots ever do it?




A Familiar Pattern

The Slashdot community seems to hit it right on the head with a few comments about the city not wanting to release their Google complaint because it would show that the city was making things up as they were going along. They overreacted and made some unfounded claims to Google. Combine that with the intense need to hide the true amount of compensation city employees receive, and you get Carvalho's responses and non-responses.

To those of you who haven't heard of Claremont before this, it's nothing new. Carvalho has made a career out of finding ways of withholding public documents through claims of confidentiality, work product, and attorney-client privilege. She has said more than once that she represents not the people of Claremont, but the city council majority. Her philosophy has been to force people and news organizations to sue the city in order to use the bottomless pit of city funds to outspend them in litigation.

We've seen this time and again in Claremont's past, and Claremont's been recognized for its traditional policy of governmental secrecy. Claremont's reformed its ways in the past couple years, but crises bring out the worst in this town (see the Irvin Landrum shooting or the $17.5 million Palmer Canyon fire settlement).

What the salary and especially employee bonus information shows, what Claremont seeks to hide, is the fact that in the past and present incompetence have been amply rewarded. No wonder they want to hide that from you.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Claremont on the Hook for $1 Million

The city of Claremont has lost a $1 million state grant to pay for the purchase of Johnson's Pasture, according to Will Bigham in today's Daily Bulletin.

Escrow has closed on the $11.5 million open space purchase, and Claremont has already made its municipal bond offering to pay for the land with the assumption that it would have that $1 million in state money. So there is no more bond money to be had.

In other words, Claremont is stuck with an additional $1 million tab that it did not anticipate. The problem, according to Bigham's article, is that the state grant agency argued that because when the city bought the land, Claremont had language placed in the deed to keep the parcel open space. The state argued that this lowered the value of the land since it cannot be developed. The state is claiming that the appraisal the city used overvalues the land.

This is the second time a city's appraisal has caused the state to pull its money. Earlier this year, the city had to get the buyers to agree to lower their sale price from $12 million (under the first city appraisal) to $11.5 million (under the second appraisal).

It occurs to us that all of this could have been avoided by simply waiting until after the purchase was recorded to have the open space deed restriction placed on the land. Then there would have been no problem with the second appraisal.

Of course, as the article indicates, to city officials this really is no problem. We've got plenty of money laying around, they tell us:

[Mayor Peter] Yao said that the $1 million expenditure was within the city's means.

"Last time I heard, we had about $5 million cash sitting in the general-fund reserve," he said.

We're hearing rumblings that the city is a lot more concerned about the egg on their face than Mayor Yao is letting on, and that the $1 million hit is pretty significant if the city ends up paying it out of their reserve.

They seem to be scrambling around to find grant money somewhere else.

Pay Stubs

Our long-time readers will know that the Insider is nothing if not accommodating. Now we make no claim at having the stratospheric IQ of Claremont City Attorney Sonia Carvalho, and with respect to Google, the owner of Blogger, who took down the images from our Labor Day post, if we're so smart, how come we're not rich.

It took us a little while to get both neurons connected and firing, but we think we finally figured out a way to post the Claremont City Employee Pay Stubs to the satisfaction of both City Attorney Carvalho, and the Google Gods:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Claremont Follies

City Attorney Action

We got to thinking about the Claremont City Attorney Sonia Carvalho's use of attorney-client privilege as a rationale for her refusal to release a copy of her complaint to Google about our "Labor Day" post. Carvalho's refusal came after
reporter Will Bigham at the Daily Bulletin requested the complaint.

A question for the lawyers among us: Can Carvalho assert a privilege of confidentiality for a third-party communication, one not between herself and her client (the city of Claremont)?


Daily Bulletin, Freedom Friday

The Daily Bulletin continued its coverage of the issue today with a front page, above-the-fold article skewering Carvalho's confidentiality argument. The Bulletin's graphic consisted a small stack of the pay stubs in questions with the names redacted.

The article, again by Bigham, is part of the Bulletin's ongoing Freedom Friday series. In the piece, Carvalho continues her revolving door reasons for withholding the information, having moved from the pay stubs are confidential to the stubs are copyrighted and, today, to asserting the privacy rights of city employees:


City Attorney Sonia Carvalho said the pay stubs contained private, personal information such as references to survivor benefits, use of vacation and sick time, and information on life-insurance benefits.

"Details as to how that employee directs his or her money - be it to a retirement plan, or to a union for dues, or for reimbursement for a holiday party - should not be released to the public for inspection and discussion," Carvalho said.

Public records experts interviewed by Bigham disputed Carvalho's contentions about the stubs:


But according to public- records experts who considered, item by item, the information included on city pay stubs, the documents are a public record that the city would be required to release upon request - with fewer redactions than Carvalho indicates should be made.

The pay stubs include a "grouping of little factoids about various little entitlements that (employees) have from the city, which says nothing about them as human beings or as city employees," said Terry Francke, general counsel for Californians Aware.

The article pointed out as an example that the pay stub for City Manager Jeff Parker, one of two that we posted, contained no personal identifying information (Social Security numbers, dates of birth, etc....). It did quote Peter Scheer, executive director for the California First Amendment Coalition, as saying that bank routing numbers for the city's bank account might have to be redacted.


The Blogosphere Reacts

The story seemed to gain some traction in the Blogosphere and with journalists, two groups with huge stakes in the matter.

The USC Annenberg School of Journalism weighed in yesterday with a piece by Robert Niles questioning the city's copyright claim.

And the Foothill Cities blog has a great piece on the troubling way in which Google caved in to the city of Claremont and pulled the plug on the pay stubs without looking into the substance of the city's complaint. (Still no response from Google to our inquires into the exact text of Claremont's complaint.)

There's also a lively discussion on the FC post.

We've also received a lot of email, which we hope to get to this weekend.


Claremont PD Readies for Action

Meanwhile, we haven't been able to confirm if the Claremont Police Department has decided to activate it's vaunted CodeRed system in an effort to deal with Paystubgate.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Paystubgate: Latest News

A few new links on the Claremont employee salary story:

Desperately Seeking

We received this urgent note today:

desperately seeking tickets for the claremont wine walk friday night...will pay premium. email: th91711@yahoo.com

The wine walk is in the Claremont Village tomorrow evening between 5-9pm. Tickets are sold out.

_______________________

For those desperately seeking more news on city employee salaries, see the posts below.

Slopping at the Public Trough--Claremont Employees

One thing that amazes the naif when going through the December 2006 City of Claremont pay stubs (See our "Labor Day" post below) is the inventive variety of ways the City employees have found to tap the public keg. We realize this post has its limitations--among them lack of context--but we are pretty sure no confidentiality or copyright issues are involved in merely listing most if not all of the "Earnings" categories found by reviewing all of the pay stubs.

Below, we list for your enjoyment all or nearly all of the categories we found, along with typical amounts paid. We tried to ensure that the amount listed was neither the highest nor the lowest we found, but was more or less representative in amount. All amounts are Year To Date for all of 2006 for a single (representative) employee.

This represents a compendium of more than 200 employees (for a city of 35,000). Where we are inclined, we make editorial comment. Don't expect anything too intelligent. Remember, we are not public employee compensation specialists; to hear the city tell it, we are low-life borderline criminals.

Admin Leave, $2,109.01
Admin Leave Mandatory, $1,006.50
Admin Leave Payoff, $2,291.08. We don't really understand any of these Administrative Leave items. And why would someone get an Admin Leave Payoff? Is a certain amount of Admin Leave a right?
Auto Allowance, $4,200. Lots and lots of employees get this. Amounts differ.
Bereavement Leave, $122.21
Bilingual Pay, $750.00
Comp Time Payoff, $1,612.02. If you don't use your Compensatory Time Off, looks like you get paid for it.
Comp Time Used, $3,209.73
Court 1.0, $451.08
Court 1.5, 1,224.91. Most of the policemen are smart enough to go to court when they get paid time and a half.
CPMA Longevity Pay, $5340.40. Lots of the senior policemen appear to receive this.
CRA [Claremont Redevelopment Agency] Board Comp, $600.00. For the councilmembers.
Education Incentive, $3,750.00. Knowledge must not be its own reward.
Family Sick Leave, $7,073.11
Floating Holiday, $1,328.17. We've heard of this, but no one we know gets this benefit.
Hol Payoff, $164.88
Holiday Pay, $1,540.43
Holiday Regular, $4,363.81
Incentive Bonus, $1,000. This seems to be like a signing bonus, but we aren't sure.
Jury Duty, $392.97
Motor Pay, $375.00. For riding that Harley.
On Call CS, $6740.00. Several policemen really score on this one. Not a clue as to what it's for.
Other, $7,227.98. Several employees got large amounts this way. Guess they had seven grand left over when the pay was handed out.
Other Pay-Correction, $1,768.40
Overtime 1.0, $433.35
Overtime 1.5, $11,956.63. What good is overtime if it can't be time and a half?
Part time Hourly
Part time w/PERS, $7,551.96. You can be part-time and still get the employee retirement system.
PD Reserve, $280
Performance Bonus $7,430.55. Oh, there were lots and lots of these; more in a later post.
Physical Reimbursement, $1,200. Reimbursement for running shoes and memberships at The Club. The Insider pays his own way.
Regular Pay, $57,638.40
Reg Training 105%, $32.98
Retro Pay, $4,437.92. This one is a mystery. Most employees get it. And it's usually hundreds or thousands of dollars for the year. The total over all of 2006 is very large. More later.
Shoot Pay, $95.47
Shoot Pay 1.5, $692.37. Again, most cops are smart enough to do their shooting when they are paid time and a half.
Sick, $2839.05
Sick Leave Bereavement $2,074.51
Sick Payoff, $950.93
Special Detail, $779.96. We think this is guarding the council meetings, and similar important duties.
Technology Reimbursement, $3,000.00. Usually $1,500 max, but one employee scored three grand.
Uniform Pay, $480.00
Uniform Pay/PERS. Do they pay retirement on your uniform?
Vacation, $9,634.51
Vacation Bonus, $1,748.97. What is this? Nice to get, though.
Vacation Part Time, $1,205.35. Maybe the same part-timers getting retirement also get vacation.
Vacation Payoff
Workers Comp, $33,277.96


Dem Bones III


The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reports that the reported human foot bones found in in a metal can in the Wilderness Park appear to animal bones. They may have been placed there by someone involved in the high-tech treasure-hunting game of geocaching.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Dem Bones II


We are now hearing from a Very Reliable Source that something was found in a metal box Tuesday morning in the Wilderness Park, and that the authorities are examining it.

Dem Bones

To avoid accusations of being "All Pay Stubs, All the Time", we post an inquiry from a reader. We admit to being at first a bit skeptical, but we are hearing more and more about this from reliable sources:

While hiking on Claremont's wilderness trail this morning [Tuesday, September 11, 2007] we came upon a young man on the phone with the police. He seem upset and we asked him if he was ok. He responded by telling us that he was on hold and that he had come upon a human foot in an old army case that was behind the small water tower that sits about a mile or so out from the entrance. Now the group I walk with have been hiking the trail for years and besides the rattlesnake (a baby) the most interesting thing we have witnessed is some beautiful deer a coyote or two and a plethora of colorful birds.

The young man said the officer on the phone didn't know how to get to the trail so he proceeded to give directions. While we were disturbed by the incident, we weren't sure we believed his assessment until he told us her was a veteran of the war. He apparently had seen a lot worse than the foot he stumbled upon in the box.

While we had commitments and had to leave our young good Samaritan foot finder...we are curious as to the end of the story. Our friend said it was a small adult foot and the case contained items that may have belonged to a child.
Shades of Blue Velvet. We assume the story, if it has legs, will be buried by the City of Claremont.

Insider to Blogger: Huh?

Monday Afternoon

Our odyssey into the inner workings of Claremont City Hall and Google's Blogger began last Friday with our posting of city employee salaries and benefits, along with scanned images of the pay stubs for Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker and city Human Services Director Jeff Porter.

Over the weekend, the city complained loud and long with false allegations that the Insider had somehow stolen the information or had obtained it through a leak in city hall. In fact, the information was posted all along on the city's on-line archive (which has since been taken off-line).

The city attorney last Friday apparently contacted Google, which operates the Blogger site that hosts the Insider. City Attorney Sonia Carvalho never tried contacting us directly with the city's concerns about our post, so we do not know the specifics, other than some unsubstantiated allegations that the post contained confidential city employee information.

Friday's post stayed up all weekend, but on Monday afternoon, after the story had gotten legs, we received the following email from Blogger:

from Blogger Help

date Sep 10, 2007 3:06 PM
subject [#197705772] Blogger complaint received
mailed-by trakken.google.com

Hello,

We'd like to inform you that we've received a complaint that your blog claremontca.blogspot.com contains confidential information. Please note that our Terms of Service prohibit posting confidential items on your blog. Accordingly, we have had to remove the content in question.

Please refer to our Terms of Service for more details:
http://beta.blogger.com/terms.g

Thank you for your understanding.

Sincerely,
The Blogger Team

So, according to Blogger, the offending material was confidential in nature. Okay, but still no specific information on what was confidential. Clear as mud, as they say.


Monday Evening

On Monday evening, we responded to the Blogger note requesting the specifics of the complaint and advised Blogger that we contended that none of the information in the post was confidential. We pointed out the lack of personal identifiers in the post, and the fact that public employee salaries are public information in California. We also reminded Blogger that the source of the "confidential" information was the city of Claremont's own, very public on-line archive.

Here is our response to Blogger:

to Blogger Help
date Sep 10, 2007 7:35 PM
subject Re: [#197705772] Blogger complaint received

Blogger Support,

Could you be a little more specific about the "confidential" information you referred to. The content was obtained from the City of Claremont's online document archive, so it was public information, free for anyone to look up. Additionally, there were no Social Security numbers, dates of birth, bank account information, or other such personal data. There was salary and bonus information for public employees at the city of Claremont. However, in California, that is public information:

http://www.officer.com/web/online/Top-News-Stories/High-Court-Makes-California-Officer-Salaries-Public/1$37599

Please review the actual post and advise what specific items are confidential. Again, we do not believe anything posted can be considered confidential, especially since the source is the city of Claremont's own public records archive available to anyone with an Internet connection - or at least until they decided they didn't like our post, at which point they removed access to the site:

http://www.ci.claremont.ca.us/ps.fyi.cfm?ID=1805

Thank you for looking into this matter.

We went ahead and reposted the Friday piece, minus the pay stub images, which seemed to be the most concern to the city and waited for an explanation from Blogger.


Tuesday Noon

On Tuesday at high noon, we heard back from Blogger. Their note informed us that the problem wasn't confidentiality at all. The pay stubs were copyrighted by the city, so their images can not be reproduced without the city's okay.

But that's not been what the city has said in any of its public statements or on its own website. According to the the city, the problem has been the confidentiality issue. Yet, Blogger tells us it's a copyright issue.

Well, folks, which is it? Here's the Blogger response:

from Blogger Help
date Sep 11, 2007 12:02 PM
subject Re: [#197705772] Blogger complaint received
mailed-by trakken.google.com

Hello,

We have removed your post due to the images of the paycheck stub of the City of Claremont, which in actuality is their copyrighted material. If you would like to reload the post that we removed, feel free to do so as long as you leave out the images of the paycheck.

Thank you for your understanding in this regard.

Sincerely,
The Blogger Team


Today's News

Will Bigham in today's Daily Bulletin had an article on the subject. Mayor Peter Yao continues with the false hints that the pay stub information somehow obtained through subterfuge:


...attempts by the city to duplicate the search yielded no pay stubs, said Mayor Peter Yao, fueling concerns that the documents may have been obtained by other means.


Hint to Mayor Yao: Go to your archive search engine and try typing: "Jeff Parker performance." It's not rocket science, Peter.

Meanwhile, City Attorney Sonia Carvalho and City Manager Parker have stolen the "hide-the-ball" page from the playbook of Parker's predecessor, Glenn Southard, the article reported:

In an interview Tuesday, Carvalho would not elaborate on her communication with Google and refused to release the city's e-mail correspondence with the company, citing attorney-client privilege.

Carvalho said the city was withholding the e-mail correspondence because city litigation against Google remains a possibility if the company fails in the future to respond if the blog re-posts copies of the pay stubs.

[In other words, Carvalho will withhold the information indefinitely.]

.....

Parker and Carvalho refused to discuss whether the city argued in its correspondence with Google that the city pay stubs were copyrighted documents.


As one occasional Insider reader of a legal mind would say, "I'm ready to rule."

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Down into the rabbit hole of secrecy goes Claremont while the local ACLU chapter and all those fair weather civil libertarians on the City Council, in the Claremont League of Women Voters, in the once progressive Pilgrim Place retirement community, and the in local Democratic Club twiddle their thumbs.