Californians Aware and its former president Richard McKee, a Pasadena City College professor, have been ordered to pay the legal fees that Orange Unified School District incurred after being sued over an open government issue. The Sacramento Bee calls the situation "Orwellian." What happened is the school board edited the critical comments of a board member out of a DVD sent to cable TV stations. CalAware sued to get the comments included in the DVD, and the school board turned around and filed an anti-SLAPP motion, claiming that McKee and CalAware were trying to stifle the districtís right to free speech. Judges agreed, the state Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal, and now the good guys are faced with a life-changing financial burden. Journalist Gary Scott is helping them raise the money:
The public's right to monitor its government is in trouble....
I don't know of a newspaper in Southern California that hasn't benefited from McKee's work, either through his court victories or his free advice. Indeed, McKee often gave reporters just the boost they needed to get over the wall of obfuscation put up by government agencies trying to shield their corruption, or embarrassment, or plain bad decision-making.
First Amendment advocate Terry Francke says that McKee's wages have garnished and a lien has been placed on his home by the Orange County school district. Heís also paid $59,000 through a second trust deed on his home.