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A flood of public records requests hits the DA's office

Original post made by studabaker on Mar 15, 2013

In yet another headache for beleagured San Mateo County District Attorney, Steve Wagstaffe, multiple public records requests seeking copies of any writings which would substantiate Mr. Wagstaffe's representation to the news media that prosecutor Melissa McKowan
was investigated and that the DA acted "appropritely" in handling the investigation are enroute to his office by fax, e-mail and in some cases hand delivery.

This is a most sticky wicket for Wagstaffe because the public records submitted do not seek personnel records nor is it clear that the Peace Officer Bill of Rights which affords special protections from similar demands for public records applies.

Another problem for Wagstaffe is precedent. Four years ago a San Mateo County judge ruled against a former Atherton Finance Director who sought to protect his right to privacy by squashing a personnel investigation. The judge ruled that the finance director was a public official.

The question now facing Wagstaffe is that if a judge were to rule McKowan is a public official (a strong possibility given her involvement in a high profile child molestation case) then Wagstaffe faces the prospect of being caught in a lie.

Count on lots of County money being spent defending what we can anticipate as Wagstaffe's refusal to hand over public records.

Then again Wagstaffe could just resign and spare us all the intrigue. Chances of that happening now seem remote at best. People inside the office speak of a bunker mentality and a man at the top with a persecution complex.

Comments (4)

Posted by Ben H. , a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 15, 2013 at 1:49 pm

The DA's office sent a letter to the person who filed the Bar complaint in October 2010, stating that the DA had concluded its internal investigation into Mckowan. It would not address any of the individual complaints to the complainant. The Chief Deputy DA told the complainant in the letter to stop criticizing the prosecutor as it would accomplish nothing.

So if the DA told the complainant that the investigation was concluded in October 2010, why is Wagstaffe telling the Almanac that their investigation into the prosecutor concluded just last year? Was there ANOTHER internal investigation into the prosecutor or does the DA not care about actual dates of internal investigations, so he just pulled a phantom date out of his hat?


Posted by Ben H, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 15, 2013 at 4:10 pm

So television legal analyst Robin Sax who appears regularly on the Today Show and Fox News has just come forward today to say that Wagstaffe tried to get her into trouble with her then-bosses at the Los Angeles District Attorney's office after she wrote a critical piece about him and the Ayres prosecutor in 2009 for Huffington Post. Wagstaffe had the gall to contact her bosses at the DA's office to try to get her into trouble about the article. She did not get into trouble. He is used to controlling the local press in San Mateo County but it won't work for the national press.


Posted by Records, a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2013 at 5:16 pm

The public records act says a public agency MAY withhold personnel actions but doesn't have to. A separate body of law in the penal code specifies a public agency MUST withhold personnel actions related to peace officers. Wagstaffe was simply lying when he said the law prohibits him from releasing these records. He doesn't want to, but doesn't want the public to know that.


Posted by Lurker, a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Has anyone had a response to their public records request into the details as to how District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe "disciplined" prosecutor Melissa Mckowan on the Ayres case?


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