Mayor's counsel disputes City Attorney advice to hold back LAFD data

city-hall-flags.jpgMayor Villaraigosa's office released a pointed letter from legal counsel Brian Currey siding with the Los Angeles Times in questioning legal opinions from the City Attorney that tell the fire department it should no longer give out the location of emergency calls. That information had been provided for many years, and is available to anyone with a radio scanner. Providing it to the media only recently became an issue around the time Los Angeles Fire Department brass were caught fudging response time stats.

The Currey letter claims state law is so clear about the data being public information that he urges the Times and other media outlets to sue the city in order to get a judge's ruling. The letter to Chief Deputy City Attorney William Carter asserts that his office's opinions made a number of legal errors and overreaches in applying privacy laws which protect hospital patients to the release of basic information on fire and ambulance calls.

On behalf of the Mayor's office, I am calling on you to reverse your opinions...The Mayor believes members of the public have a right to know this information. But your office says they don't....You told the Fire Department to keep secret not only the address number, but also the street name and even the map page on which the location could be found.

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Your written advice fails to discuss any relevant case or Attorney General opinion...these mistakes suggest that your office failed to exercise the skill, prudence, and diligence required of attorneys when they are formulating advice.

Carter dismissed the comments, telling the LA Times: "That's why the city attorney is the lawyer for the mayor, so we don't have staffers trying to interpret the law," Carter said. He said the letter "is factually and legally inaccurate and misleading."


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