Public Contracts (Santa Cruz County Board Of Supervisors)

Dan Rubins filed this request with the Santa Cruz County Board Of Supervisors of Santa Cruz, CA.

It is a clone of this request.

Multi Request Public Contracts
Est. Completion None
Fix Required


From: Dan Rubins

To Whom It May Concern:

I. Background Information

Contract administration is frequently a source of concerning behavior in the public sector. For example:
- In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a company with only two employees (Whitefish Energy) was hired hired by PREPA, Puerto Rico's public utility company, to restore power to the island at a cost of $300M. The contract had audit-proofing clauses and left little recourse for PREPA due to nonperformance. After 8 months, Puerto Rico did not have power fully restored and now Congressional and FBI investigations are pending.
- During an internal audit of the City of San Diego's contracting practices, the contract with office products supplier Staples was found to exceed the City Council's approved $2M annual threshold by a full $1M. Auditors found found insufficient financial controls and produced a further 60 pages of recommendations.
- The US Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) found sustained exceptions for incurred costs audits 28.6% of the time in its 2017 Report to Congress.
- From 2010 to 2013, a Maryland Transit Authority employee allegedly used poor contracting oversight to siphon $6.3M from the state coffers.
- The City of Vallejo, CA was recently the victim of an alleged contracting kickback scheme run by the city's landscape maintenance manager, only uncovered in an FBI investigation. The kickback scheme occurred only a few years after the city was in Chapter 9 bankruptcy because of ballooning contractual obligations.
- In recent years, officials in the southern California cities of Bell, Irwindale, La Puente, Monterey Park, Pico Rivera, Temple City, and Vernon have been brought up on various public corruption charges.

While the vast majority of public contracting is done with integrity, bad actors and a lack of public knowledge have a disproportionate effect on the fiscal wellbeing and public trust of every level of government.

II. Requested Records

Pursuant to the California Public Records Act, I hereby request the following records:

1. Any and all executed contracts, memorandums of understanding (MOUs), and other equivalent agreements that are currently active, or were active within the last two years, other than standard employee agreements. Please provide a copy of the executed document as well as any addenda, amendments, attachments, exhibits, materials, and schedules.

2. Any and all contract template documents, for example, employee agreements, vendor agreements, master services agreements, nondisclosure agreements, or interagency cooperation contracts.

3. General policies and procedures for contract administration, including training materials and records used to instruct members of your agency in contract administration.

4. Any available process narratives, audit reports, or findings regarding contract administration covering the last two years.

I am happy to discuss any issues or suggestions to make fulfillment more manageable for your office.

III. Fees

If there are any fees for searching or copying these records, please inform me in advance of fulfilling the request.

I would also like to request a waiver of all fees in that the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public's understanding of how governments manage public money and the obligations to which they are entrusted.

Neither I, nor my company (Legal Robot), has any commercial interest in obtaining the requested information. Rather, we intend to use software to analyze and disseminate the requested information free of charge so that the public may identify patterns of bad behavior that, when eliminated, will benefit governments and the public alike.

We plan to enrich and cross-link the information we receive from multiple jurisdictions, and provide an exploratory interface for the public on the internet, for free. Because we consider this work to be Data Journalism, and we further expect to provide our analysis to other media organizations for additional print and online publication, I ask to be categorized as a representative of the news media. Upon request, I am happy to provide our analysis and any articles we write based on our analysis in advance of publication, though I cannot speak for other media outlets.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 10 calendar days, as the statute requires.


Dan Rubins


Mr. Rubins,

Pursuant to California Government Code section 6253(c), we write in response to the inquiry you made, dated July 23, 2018 to the County of Santa Cruz under the California Public Records Act, which was faxed to the County and received on July 23,2018 (the "Requests"). We are responding to the Requests within the ten (10) day response window set out in Government Code section 6253(c). We note that the Requests are limited only to records maintained in the normal course of business by the County and records that are in the County's custody and control.

Please note that we will not produce records that are privileged or otherwise exempt from disclosure pursuant to California Government Code section 6254(k). This includes documents protected by the attorney-client privilege, attorney work product, and official information privileges.

No preliminary drafts or memorandum not normally kept in the ordinary course of business will be produced pursuant to California Government Code section 6254(a). Records concerning real estate appraisals for pending acquisitions are also exempt from disclosure under California Government Code section 6254(h).

We will not produce documents that are subject to copyright protections, contain trade secrets, and/or proprietary and/or confidential information. See California Government Code sections 6253.9, 6254(k), 6254.9; California Evidence Code section 1060.

Moreover, we will not produce documents exempt from disclosure under the deliberative process privilege. See Times Mirror Co. v. Superior Court (1991) 53 Cal.3d 1325.

No documents will be produced where "the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest by the disclosure of the record" under California Government Code section 6255. Additionally, no documents will be produced if they contain personnel, medical, private, confidential, or similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy under California Government Code section 6254(c) and/or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. And, to the extent any of the records you are requesting are the subject of ongoing litigation and/or pending investigations, and/or are law enforcement investigatory records, such records are exempt from production. See Government Code sections 6254 (b), (f).

In addition, no documents or records will be produced to the extent such a production would violate California Penal Code §§ 832.7, 832.8, 11076, California Civil Code § 129, California Welfare and Intuitions Code §§ 827, 828, 831, California Business and Professions Code § 805, or California Evidence Code § 1043.

Furthermore, as we review your Requests, we may discover other applicable privileges and/or exemptions under Government Code sections 6254, 6255, 6256 or other applicable state or federal laws, and we reserve all rights to assert those at any time.

Upon a review of our records, the County has determined it has non-exempt records responsive to your request, including records publicly accessible on the Internet by visiting the Board of Supervisions meeting portal website pages at: See the link for details and additional web links.

The County is continuing to review its records for further non-exempt responsive documents and will update you as we continue our review, including what costs, if any, related to the production. The County reserves the right to produce records on a rolling basis and will do so for your Requests.

Kind Regards,
Cheryl M. Williams
Cheryl M. Williams, Senior Board Clerk
Clerk of the Board of Supervisors
701 Ocean Street, Room 520
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 454-2326 - Direct Line
(831) 454-2323 - Main Line

This electronic mail message and any attachments are intended only for the use of the addressee(s) named above and may contain information that is privileged, confidential and exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If you are not the intended recipient, please delete the email and notify us immediately.

From: Santa Cruz County Board Of Supervisors

Mr. Rubins:

This is a follow up response to your request for Public Records dated July 23, 2018. As set forth in detail below, your request is overly broad, unduly burdensome, and would result in an unreasonable use of public resources.

The County maintains hundreds of thousands of pages of records, including contracts and equivalent agreements, among over 30 different departments. Records are not indexed or segregated by the broad topics you have identified. Under the Public Records Act, the County is not required to review records throughout each department to determine whether a particular record constitutes the type of general subject matter you have requested. Additionally, some of the records which you seek such as contract templates and narratives and interagency agreements may be protected from disclosure pursuant to one or more exemptions applicable under the Public Records Act. Until particular contracts are identified with specificity, we are unable to determine whether an exemption applies. We reserve the right to raise all applicable exemptions and privileges until such time as you refine your request and identify records with more specificity.

Notwithstanding, the County is a party to thousands of contracts each year which are maintained in multiple databases throughout the County. The County has conducted a preliminary search of contracts over the past two years and has located approximately 2,000 documents that may be responsive to your request. A list of such documents are provided for your review. It would take conservatively 2-5 minutes (depending on the size of the document), or approximately 66 to 166 hours of staff time, to extract and compile these documents. As stated, this was only a preliminary search and does not include all potentially responsive documents for a two-year period as requested. Further, this estimate does not include the time required to review each document to determine if any information is protected from disclosure under the Public Records Act. Thus, the actual amount of time and cost required to respond to your request would be much greater. Accordingly, pursuant to Government Code 6255(a), the County declines to produce the records, as requested, as the enormity of the burden to produce them far outweighs any public interest served by disclosure. (See Am. Civil Liberties Union Found. v. Deukmejian (1982) 32 Cal. 3d 440.)

However, because many contracts are the subject of public meetings, such contracts may be identified by you via a search of past agendas and recorded meetings of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors which are publicly available online:

Of course, the County would be willing to work with you in narrowing the scope of your request to significantly reduce the cost, time and resources needed to provide the records you seek.

Kind Regards,

Cheryl M. Williams
Cheryl M. Williams, Senior Board Clerk
Clerk of the Board of Supervisors
701 Ocean Street, Room 520
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 454-2326 - Direct Line
(831) 454-2323 - Main Line