It was an ordinary Saturday afternoon when I received the most bizarre email I’ve ever received from a member of the Davis City Council.
“Hi Bob,” began the brief note from Councilman Brett Lee. “Not sure if anyone let you know about this. Common courtesy dictates that you should be informed.”
Brett Lee is a gentleman and a credit to our council. Kind, thoughtful and considerate. He figured what follows is something I ought to know. I thanked him for his basic decency and began to read what he had kindly sent.
Turns out a goofy gadfly, whose name I will leave out of this because I feel sorry for him, made a public records request about me to City Clerk Zoe Mirabile.
Councilman Brett Lee rightly figured that since the city of Davis is a public institution paid for by taxpayers like you and me, when its resources are being taxed, the person in question should at least be notified.
Unfortunately, he was the only council member or city staff member who had the decency to realize this. So much for openness and transparency in government.
Said the gadfly’s request: “I would like a copy in electronic form of all emails from Bob Dunning or pertaining to Bob Dunning to city staff or the Davis City Council.”
In other words, any email correspondence of any kind to any one of the city of Davis’ 454 full-time and part-time employees, council members included, that mentions the name “Bob Dunning.”
If you wrote an email to the city recreation department that said “I ran into Bob Dunning’s wonderful wife in Nugget and she told me their young daughter was playing city league basketball and I’d like some information on how to sign up,” that email would have to be produced.
If one city staffer sent an email to another city staffer that said “I saw Bob Dunning jogging down Russell at lunchtime and boy is he hot,” that, too, would have to be included.
The problem as I see it for the city in fulfilling Goofy’s request is that most city employees refer to me by my code name of “Mr. Wonderful.” Whether any and all emails referencing “Mr. Wonderful” will have to be included is a matter for the city attorney, who also calls me “Mr. Wonderful.”
As Mirabile wrote to all department heads, who presumably might have better things to do with their taxpayer-funded time: “Please include all emails pertaining to Dunning even if they are to/from someone else.” As per Mr. Gadfly’s request: “This calendar year — all topics.”
Whew. At least my Dec. 31 email to all council members, warning them that Jesus would return at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, will not be included.
Worse yet, regarding emails to, from or among City Council members specifically, our friend is “requesting correspondence either via city email accounts or private email accounts.”
This could get embarrassing for Councilman Dan Wolk and the Above-Pictured Columnist, since most of our exchanges on his private email account concern Stanford football and not city business. I think there might even be a wager or two in there.
Shame on you, Dan. You should know that when it comes to Stanford football, you have no right to privacy. Now the whole town will know you conclude every personal email with the words “Cardinal Rules.”
Still, I am one who completely and unreservedly supports the notion of open government and open records. I don’t like it even for a second when the council goes into closed session and the public is not allowed a single hint of what is being whispered behind closed doors.
I am also one who realizes that when I push the “send” button on an email, it’s open season. Expect the whole world to see it.
So, I have no concern whatsoever with this request. Have at it. And if you, Mr. or Mrs. Average Davisite, would like to do the same, hoping to uncover some embarrassing tidbit about your nasty neighbors, you have the same privilege. Just toss any name you’d like out there and you might be lucky enough to strike gold. In fact, we could tie up every public employee’s entire work day just filling these requests.
Lawyers would call this a “fishing expedition,” but since I like bass and catfish and 50-pound king salmon as much as the next guy, I won’t call it that. It would be disrespectful to the fish.
But I am a bit concerned about how many man-hours will be eaten up on the taxpayers’ dime with what is clearly a frivolous request from a known gadfly. A gadfly who, incidentally, has requested of me all email correspondence I have had with a “Michael Harrington,” who apparently is not a city employee. I am not making this up.
I’m also concerned about several top-secret plans I’ve uncovered during my back-and-forth discussions with city officials.
I honestly don’t think the city’s plan to purchase heat-seeking military drones from Travis Air Force Base to provide surveillance of smoke emanating from Davis chimneys on no-burn days should become public knowledge. At least not until we’ve rounded up all the fireplace felons in this town.
I also think the city’s long-range plan to charge Davis citizens for every raindrop that falls upon private property should remain secret as well.
Additionally, it’s way too early for the unwashed masses to be told that the city plans to annex the surrounding Yolo County “W” communities of Woodland, Winters, Willowbank and West Sacramento (and maybe even Williams, Willows, Weaverville and Weed) to form a mega-city named “Wavis,” with a much larger tax base so Mayor Joe Krovoza can sit closer to the podium at the annual meeting of the League of California Cities.
There are just some things that the general public is not yet ready to hear. Everything else, though, including all of my many emails to city elected officials and staff members, is fair game.
So, concerned citizen that I am — always looking out for the public dollar — I have come up with a solution.
Willingly, and in all seriousness, I sent an email to Mr. Goofy Gadfly offering to send him all email correspondence, both ways, between me and any City Council members and any and all city of Davis employees, including part-timers and that one basketball referee who called a foul on my daughter when she wasn’t even in the game.
And I’ll do it for free. On my own time and on my own dime.
It’s the least I can do for the city I love.
— Reach Bob Dunning at firstname.lastname@example.org