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ABC Board Member Johnson Tries to Block Public Records Request

ABCUSD Board Member Lynda Johnson

ABCUSD Board Member Lynda Johnson.

By Brian Hews

An HMG-CN Jan. 2012-June 2016 public records request under the Freedom of Information Act has produced thousands of emails between ABCUSD board member Lynda Johnson and ABCUSD administration.

And sources have told HMG-CN that Johnson has hired an attorney in an attempt to block the emails from being reviewed by HMG-CN, which is a violation of the FOIA.

HMG-CN requested the documents in August, but ABCUSD lawyers took over 45 days to gather the emails.

ABCUSD lawyers said there was “so many emails that they had to write a program to retrieve the emails.”

“It was necessary for the district to engage in data compilation, extraction, and programming to produce the records.”

Scott Kline, an IT professional told HMG-CN, “as an IT professional for over thirty years, there is no way that it can take so much time to recover even archived emails. Most email servers are based on a database type storage system. With that in mind, a simple search or Boolean search would pull up the results in a matter of minutes, regardless of the size of the database. Unless of course, they are still running pre-80’s computers as their servers, which is highly unlikely.”

The lawyers also to want to charge for the retrieval, which, according to HMG-CN attorney Kelly Aviles, is illegal.

“The lawyers cannot charge you, if they do we can sue them and get the money back,” said Aviles.

When emails are requested, they are reviewed by attorneys for sensitive personal information such as email addresses, phone numbers, and driver’s license numbers; that information is redacted. The remaining text of the email is public record and cannot be redacted or withheld.

But that did not stop Johnson from hiring an attorney, with sources telling HMG-CN that Johnson was extremely angry and agitated that the emails would be released to HMG-CN.

There is corroboration from high-level ABCUSD officials that the emails will show Johnson as a very angry and vindictive official, starting shortly after she was snubbed and not appointed as President of the Board.

 

 

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“I have heard there is over 5,000 emails,” said one ABCUSD official, “I know she emails me all the time.”

Johnson has also had several confrontations with her fellow board members.

 

 

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One reason why Johnson is attempting to block the emails is that time stamps could show Johnson sending emails to ABCUSD administration during regular working hours.

A highly unethical practice in any employer/employee situation, made even more questionable given that Johnson works as a paralegal with the Los Angeles District Attorney in their Compton office.

A second larger reason could place Johnson in legal and political hot water.

A few weeks ago, the ABCUSD was informed that the Los Angeles District Attorney was opening an investigation for possible Brown Act Violations.

Sources told HMG CN at the time that the complaint had “Johnson’s fingerprints all over it.”

The highly questionable investigation was dropped two weeks later due to lack of evidence.

 

 

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HMG-CN requested the complaint letter under the FOIA, but the D.A.’s office refused to give HMG-CN the document.

The D.A. also refused a specific public records request of Johnson’s emails to the ABCUSD under her D.A. office email address from 2014 to the present.

On Sept. 23, the D.A. first indicated that there were “over 900 emails, can you please narrow your search.”

HMG-CN complied by asking for any emails containing the words School District, Dr. Mary Sieu, ABCUSD, Maynard Law, Olympia Chen, Sophia Tse, ABC Unified School District, Jim Baca, or Lynda Johnson.

The D.A. answered “all of the emails we found are exempt from disclosure because they contain investigative records, witness statements….and investigative complaints.”

HMG-CN then asked for any emails sent or received by Lynda Johnson to any email ending in @abcusd.us stipulating that “the emails could possibly be exempt, unless some emails concern the now dropped investigation of ABCUSD, which would be highly questionable communications.”

The D.A. responded, “our response would be repeating verbatim what we provided to you on September 23rd.”

In researching other cases, the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office released a search warrant affidavit saying the bodies of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez and two of his friends had a strong odor of alcohol on them when they were recovered by divers following a boat crash off Miami Beach.

When HMG-CN asked what the difference was between the ABCUSD complaint and the Miami-Dade warrant that was released, the D.A. responded, “I understand your complaint, but we still cannot release the emails or the complaint letter.”

When the ABCUSD investigation was announced, everyone, except for Johnson, was surprised.

Dr. Mary Sieu told HMG-CN after the investigation was dropped, “I along with our attorney, board members, and many others were baffled that it even occurred, there was nothing there.”

Dr. Sieu went on, “we were very disturbed that the complaint painted a picture of negativity around our award-winning district that has only had positive outcomes for our student, teachers and staff.”

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