Mayor Todd Gloria Withholds Public Document From Reporters

Written by Will Hekman

The City of San Diego has finally released a memo written years ago by Todd Gloria that had already been public for years. 

In 2015, then city council member Todd Gloria urged then-mayor Kevin Faulconer to develop citywide use and privacy policies around surveillance. At the time, Gloria had been reacting to the news of San Diego’s usage of facial recognition technology and license plate readers. Gloria supported city workers who used the technology for public safety but worried about if the technology violated civil liberties and the liability that came with the technology. Gloria urged Kevin Faulconer to make the city a, “leader in transparency” 

The city considered the memo as too sensitive to be released to the public, saying that releasing the memo would prevent elected officials from speaking amongst themselves in public. But the city has since released the memo, even though the memo had been made public back in 2017.

The memo had been sent from the city to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform in 2017 when the Committee had an inquiry on facial recognition technology. The House posted the memo along with other documents in April. La Prensa and Voice of San Diego both requested separate copies of the memo, both were denied but the reasoning was different in each request. The Voice of San Diego received the denial from the City Council Administrative Director, “Any documents responsive to the request are being withheld pursuant to: Disclosure of the information would chill the City’s ability to have open and frank discussions about pre-decisional, deliberative matters,”. La Presa filed a similar request for the memo but the public records manager claimed there were “no responsive documents”. The California Public Records Act requires that agencies state whether a record exists and then give a reason for why it’s being withheld. 

Nick Serrano, the deputy chief of staff to Mayor Gloria stated that the mayor, “is committed to transparency, and we expect all city employees to comply with the California Public Records Act to the letter of the law.”