CPRA penalty bill would fine bad actor agencies

Against significant opposition and skepticism in the Legislature, CNPA continues its charge to support a bill that creates a civil fine for bad actor agencies that fail to comply with the California Public Records Act.

Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) introduced AB 1479 after one of his constituents complained about the systemic problems with some agencies who fail to comply with the CPRA. The measure establishes a penalty to discourage bad behavior by imposing a maximum fine of $5,000 against an agency that engages in egregious behavior like charging thousands of dollars to produce digital records that are easily accessible, or obstinately refusing to release records that are clearly subject to disclosure.

If passed, California would join a handful of states that impose monetary sanctions on agencies that defy their public records laws. Transparency advocates across the country see the measure as a positive step in improving compliance with the state’s records law. The money from the penalty would go to the requester. This penalty would provide a modicum of redress for the harm — the time, money and deprivation of the right of access — that a requester has suffered, if it can show that the agency acted contrary to law by improperly delaying access to information, charging a requester exorbitant and unnecessary fees, or denying access to records despite clear law on point directing disclosure.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider the bill on Tuesday, July 11.