Letters to the Editor

When public records simply disappear

Every year, The Bee runs stories during "Sunshine Week" about public records requests, but what can the public do when public records disappear? I requested records from the city of Livingston regarding a 42-inch sewer trunk line. I requested minutes and the audio CD of the two City Council meetings. At these meetings, the City Council decided an environmental impact report was not needed by claiming it was eligible for a CEQA public right of way exemption. It was noticed this public right of way does not exist, so the council decided the developer, Ranchwood Homes, would negotiate deals to create easements.

The council reviewed, discussed and agreed with the city staff report that claimed Merced County staff stated that approval from other county agencies is not needed -- despite being outside Livingston's city limits and sphere of influence and on prime agricultural land. The council then approved an agreement with Ranchwood Homes to install the sewer line.

I received a letter from the city stating the records will be available by June 27. Twenty days after my request, and the day before the recordings were to be available, the city claimed the recordings of the two council meetings are blank due to a recording error.