A judge who will decide a lawsuit filed by inewsource against the North County Transit District said she will privately review documents that assess the leadership of the transit agency before determining whether they should be made public.

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Why this matters: NCTD is a public transportation agency funded by millions of dollars of taxpayer money, overseen by elected officials from within the county and ultimately accountable to the people of San Diego.

Further reading:

1. Security Breach
2. North County Transit District’s revolving door costs big
3. Auditor finds major deficiencies in North County Transit District’s Contracts Department
4. Emails show NCTD changed paperwork after info request


The documents, known as “the Rady documents,” detail the strengths and weaknesses of more than a dozen senior managers at the public transit agency. NCTD paid the UCSD Rady School of Management more than $31,000 to complete the assessment earlier this year.

Sources familiar with the assessment say it validates inewsource’s reporting over the past 18 months about NCTD’s “vacuum” of knowledge — the result of a high turnover rate among upper management and an alleged culture of intimidation inside the agency. According to multiple sources, this vacuum is to blame for much of the NCTD’s recent safety, compliance, budgetary and operational deficiencies.

The transit district refused to release the assessment to inewsource, contending it is a personnel document and exempt from the California Public Records Act. inewsource sued in March, contending the document is in the public’s interest and asking the San Diego Superior Court to order NCTD to release it.

NCTD’s lawfirm, McDougal Love Eckis Boehmer & Foley, wrote in its opposition that “The Rady documents are individualized assessments that pertain to each individual management employee, not to the public’s business.”

The firm also asked the court to strike from the record all references to published stories about NCTD that inewsource included in its lawsuit as background material and supporting documentation. The firm said the contents of the Rady documents “are completely divorced from the subject matter of those news stories.”

San Diego Superior Court Judge Joan Lewis denied that motion to strike in her ruling Thursday, writing that “the Court cannot determine at the pleading stage that the reference to news articles and other documents in the petition is so irrelevant as to justify striking.”

After the judge reviews the Rady documents, she is expected to issue a tentative ruling and set a date for oral arguments.

Emails obtained by inewsource in March showed the North County Transit District commissioned the Rady study without seeking competitive bids, then changed paperwork and attempted to backdate a new contract after inewsource requested the documentation.

Brad Racino was the assistant editor and senior investigative reporter at inewsource. He's a big fan of transparency, whistleblowers and government agencies forgetting to redact key information from FOIA requests. Brad received his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri in...