Newsletter: August 28, 2013

Dear friends of inewsource,

It’s become a trend across the country for government agencies to charge large fees for public documents. This severely inhibits the democratic process. How can citizens — and the media — hold officials accountable for their actions if we can’t track their actions? It’s happening right here. See the full story below.

In some good news, we will be welcoming a new staff member next week — a data journalist who will pry data from government agencies and crunch the numbers for our stories. He also will be front and center as we begin examining donations and expenditures in the upcoming special mayoral election. Stay tuned for the revival of our “Follow the Money” feature.

Thank you for making this work possible. Tell your friends it’s worth supporting! Share this email!

—- Lorie Hearn, Executive Director | loriehearn@inewsource.org

$57 an hour for public records

The Poway Unified School District is throwing financial obstacles in the way of our continuing investigation into how it manages special taxes called Mello-Roos. A couple of weeks ago, we were forced to hire a lawyer to write a letter reminding the district of its obligation under the law to make records available for inspection during office hours.

Now the district says inewsource must pay $484.76 for emails it requested under the Public Records Act.

Reporter Joanne Faryon asked for seven weeks of emails that could shed light on the problem of tax overcharges to homeowners. The district says gathering the emails required eight hours of computer work at $57.82 an hour. Faryon has taken to Twitter to put public pressure on the district to hand over the public documents without charge. (Join the conversation by following inewsource, Joanne Faryon or Brad Racino on Twitter.)

A tiny journalism nonprofit in Florida used the public to win a similar battle earlier this year.

The government trend of charging large amounts for data and documents is just one more reason traditional newsrooms shrink from investigative journalism. Join forces with us in fighting these battles. Donate to inewsource and let us know you’d like your contribution placed in our legal fund!

More about Joe

As Lorie mentioned above, we’re welcoming a new staffer, Joe Yerardi, who starts work as an investigative reporter and data specialist for inewsource on Tuesday.

A graduate of New York University with a master’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he may be destined by birth (in Boston) to be a Red Sox fan for life but otherwise seems perfectly rational. In his last gig as data editor for the San Antonio Express-News, he worked on data-based investigations about how tough it is for minorities to get small business loans and how the growing minority population affected the last mayoral election there.

Joe will get his feet wet in San Diego by analyzing campaign finance reports as part of our coverage of the upcoming special mayoral election. He’ll also dive into his own data-driven projects, join forces with staff on others, and build and maintain our website’s data center.

Probably not the last word

The day Mayor Bob Filner announced he was resigning, Lorie Hearn, inewsource’s executive director and editor, put the finishing touches on Alex Roth’s excellent investigative piece, Bob Filner and the Monster Within, and later sent out an extra email to make sure you didn’t miss it.

Alex found that Filner’s enemies, allies and former staff members almost all agree on one irony: “The man who spent his political career professing compassion for the little guy had difficulty mustering the proper concern for how his words and actions might impact the people who surrounded him in everyday life.”

Or, as San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts said, “He just didn’t treat people well.”

While five men who worked for Filner when he was in Congress said they hadn’t heard rumors of any sexual harassment, numerous women ex-staffers declined to comment or didn’t return calls.

Alex let the daughter of a former Filner colleague have the last word — for now, at least.

Truth matters. Help us find it.

Give today.

 

We'll let you know when big things happen.

About Lorie Hearn

Lorie Hearn is the founder and executive director of inewsource.

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