BREAKING: Open The Books has Sued the State of California 18_California_Petition

January 13, 2020 04:58 PM

18_California_Petition

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IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO

Introduction

Plaintiffs American Transparency (d/b/a “OpenTheBooks.com”) and Adam Andrzejewski bring this lawsuit under Article I, Section 3, of the California Constitution, as well as the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”), Cal. Gov’t Code § 6250 et seq., to compel Defendant California State Controller (the “Controller”) to disclose various records concerning state spending information, including records reflecting line-by-line vendor payments. Despite repeated attempts to obtain an adequate response from the Controller, Plaintiffs have instead faced at various points delay, silence, obfuscation, and inadequate justification for the agency’s refusal to provide a reasoned determination and responsive records. Plaintiffs first filed a CPRA request for state checkbook data in 2013—over six years ago—but, to date and after repeated requests, the Controller has failed to disclose any relevant records. It is beyond dispute that the public records at issue are subject to disclosure under the CPRA, notwithstanding the Controller’s protests. The situation now requires judicial intervention.


According to Plaintiffs’ investigative efforts, California is the only state to refuse to produce its line-by-line spending information to government watchdogs and the interested public. The Controller openly admits to paying 49 million bills annually, totaling approximately $320 billion in payments. See Overview of the State Controller’s Office, Calif. State Controller Betty T. Yee, available at https://bit.ly/2MSjTsh; see also Adam Andrzejewski, California’s Accounting System Cost Taxpayers $1.1 Billion and Still Can’t Produce a State Checkbook, Forbes, Dec. 12, 2019, https://bit.ly/39D2nSw. The Controller nevertheless claims that it cannot meet its obligations under the CPRA to provide copies of the records reflecting its most basic handling of taxpayer dollars.


The alleged inability of the Controller to produce the public records sought by Plaintiffs beggars belief. If the Controller cannot effectively manage records of state vendor payments, and maintain those records in a searchable database such that it can provide some minimal level of transparency into its core operations, then it seems it should be impossible for the Controller to meet its other obligations, such as providing auditing services and financial oversight for the entire state apparatus of the fifth largest economy in the world. If the Controller truly cannot track its own use of government monies, then it cannot effectively stop waste, fraud, corruption, and taxpayer abuse.


For these reasons, and those set forth below, Plaintiffs respectfully request this Court’s intervention and an award of attorney fees and costs.

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