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Commerce Officials Withhold Public Records

Residents forced to retain attorney to compel the City to produce records.

By Brian Hews

A group of active Commerce residents led by Mike Alvarado, have retained attorney Kelly Aviles to compel the city to produce public records they say that city officials are “illegally withholding.”

In a letter to City Manager Jorge Rifa, Aviles says, “the city (of Commerce) has improperly denied requests for information related to legal expenses and has provided just a summary of records responsive to a request for information regarding city owned vehicles instead of providing actual records.”

Aviles goes on to cite various codes determining the production of public records under the California Public Records Act section 6253.

“The city has not responded to a number of requests, or has delayed providing responsive records well outside the time which would be allowed under the code,” Aviles stated.

The first set of documents requested by Alvarado focused on payments made on behalf of taxpayers to Commerce City Attorney Eddie Olivo.

The letter stated, “on July 23, Angie Verdin, Senior Office Assistant, notified my client that the city was declining to produce records relating to the city’s legal expenses including information about the payment of fees to outside and in-house attorneys as well as City Attorney Eddie Olivo’s billing invoices.”

Aviles cites two Superior Court cases with one case concluding, “The identity of the client, the amount of the fee, identification of payment by case file name, and the general purpose of the work performed are usually not protected.”

The second set of documents requested were emails between the city council and the city attorney on two days July 15 and 16th of this year.

The letter stated, “over a month after the request was made the city responded and notified my client that a number of documents were available. The city then said that some of the records were being withheld on the basis of attorney-client privilege however the city has failed to provide any information regarding the communications that would allow the person reviewing the response to determine whether those documents were properly withheld.”

The third set of documents asked for transportation logs related to vehicle maintenance records. In response the city provided a summary of records.

Aviles demanded that their clients wanted “copies of the documentation used to create the summary for each vehicle including the current mileage, the miles driven per year, records regarding the gas consumption, maintenance, bodywork repairs, and log of who used the vehicle.

Aviles concluded her letter saying ” While my clients’ certainly hope to avoid litigation, should the City fail or refuse to comply as demanded, such action will lead my clients to seek a court order compelling the City to release the records, as well as an award of court costs and attorney fees incurred as a result of any litigation.”

Calls from HMG-CN to Commerce City officials regarding the matter went unanswered.

Alvarado is currently involved in a local movement of Commerce residents to recall three members of the city council including City Councilwoman Tina Baca Del Rio, Councilman Ivan Altamirano, and Lilia Leon.

A copy of the letter is below

Commerce letter

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