Saturday, November 5, 2011

Two Cathedrals: Is this Bonnie Dumanis in charge? Or asleep at the switch?

Cross-posted from Two Cathedrals:

CityBeat stumbled into a very strange story this week when they received what should have been a pro forma records response from Bonnie Dumanis’ District Attorney office. A straightforward request — how does the DA’s office spend asset-forfeiture funds — returned a document rife with basic spelling errors and an oddly passive-aggressive breakdown of cost to the taxpayer for providing records publicly:
It’s the sort of basic accounting record you’d expect to be readily available from a public office. But, no—in the email response to CityBeat’s public-records request, Dumanis’ office said that compiling the document took roughly four-and-a-half hours of staff time. That time, apparently, didn’t include basic proofreading, since words like “investigator,” “rescue” and “association” were misspelled throughout the document.
It’s particularly strange for a number of reasons. The first is basic public access to how the public’s money is being spent. Asset forfeitures provide public money, so it isn’t as though the public’s right to access this information should be in any doubt. But the response from the DA’s office made clear that the records were not otherwise compiled, and presumably not otherwise easily accessible for the public. So what we’re looking at is the cost to taxpayers of being able to know how their own money is spent — because the DA’s office never thought to keep track in the first place.

Second is the hubris involved in quoting a price ($322.09 if you’re curious) for producing such a fundamentally incompetent document to the public (their employer). It immediately begs the question: is this the quality standard that Bonnie Dumanis has established for the DA’s office in all official business — research, litigation, all other public documents. And, given the volume of typos, is there reason to assume that all the numbers are accurate?

If this is the universal standard, um… why is anyone getting paid? And if it isn’t, why is there a lower standard being applied to providing access to public records about public resources? Did CityBeat get a receipt because there’s an option for taxpayers or other entities to pay extra and receive competent service from their public officials?

One of the few things that supposedly recommends Dumanis for mayor is that she’s the only one of the four leading candidates to have executive (as opposed to legislative) experience. But this shows that on her watch, basic accounting records aren’t being kept, there’s a missing standard of basic competence for official documents produced by her office, and a passive-aggressive attitude towards the notion that the public should have access to how their elected officials are using the public’s money. Not sure that really recommends her executive experience.

On Monday, we discussed Dumanis’ new(ish) campaign consultant Ron Nehring, who has struggled to maintain basic competence for years in various jobs. Now right on cue, the issue for Dumanis is basic competence.

by Lucas O’Connor

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