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City, County, Drag Heels on Releasing Raymond Zack Records

Both the City of Alameda, and the Alameda County Fire Department, are dragging their heels on responding to public records requests for documents and records related to the death of Raymond Zack on Memorial Day at Crown Beach. The Alameda County Fire dispatch center handles the dispatch of fire equipment through the county, including Alameda Fire Department trucks and other equipment.

Denise Lai, an Alameda resident, requested a number of documents from the City of Alameda on June 3rd, including records pertaining to the Alameda Fire Department Mutual Aid policy and procedures, and the fire department disaster policy and procedures. Through both the City of Alameda, and the Alameda County Fire Department, she has also asked for the County Fire Department’s recordings of dispatch center communications during the incident. She does not have any of these records yet.

“Since most of the documents are standard operating procedures that should already be public, this makes no sense. Other city’s fire departments have theirs online! City Attorney Donna Mooney continues to tell me that she needs to review all documents and that the initial method of delivery of documents will be published on the city website within the 10-day limit,” Ms. Lai told Action Alameda News.

And, after receiving an e-mail late Friday from City Clerk Lara Weisiger, Lai said, “It looks like the city is intent on withholding readily-available documents until after the Mayor and City Council vote to approve the firefighter’s contract on June 21.” City of Alameda officials are now asking for more time to produce some documents, beyond the customary 10-day response window.

At one point, according to Lai, Alameda County Fire Department officials told her that they cannot release recordings from the County dispatch center, because the City of Alameda Fire Department now “owns” them. Under the California Public Records Act, any public agency in possession of a record must produce it on request, or provide in writing an explanation why they will not provide it, citing the appropriate exemption under law.

Last week, Action Alameda News reached out to the offices of all five Alameda County Supervisors, to ask for assistance regarding the records request directed to the Alameda County Fire Department. We were directed to Alameda County Deputy County Counsel Robert Reiter, who promised to look into the issue, and provide a status update by end-of-day on Thursday. By end-of-day Friday, Mr. Reiter had still not called back.

Documents previously obtained by Action Alameda news under the California Public Records Act, including a March 16th, 2009 memo that Interim Fire Chief Mike D’Orazi cited as evidence of “budget cuts” that ultimately prevented rescuers from entering the water on Memorial Day, have cast doubt on the Chief’s statements, because the same memo indicated that budget for training water rescue swimmers had been approved, and re-certification training was to begin again in “30 to 45 days,” or roughly two years before Zack’s death on May 30th, 2011.

Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore also has not responded to a number of Action Alameda News requests for clarification on documents that we have obtained.

10 comments to City, County, Drag Heels on Releasing Raymond Zack Records

  • Barb

    Lai said, “It looks like the city is intent on withholding readily-available documents until after the Mayor and City Council vote to approve the firefighter’s contract on June 21.”

    Wonder why? Decisions to approve pay generally are not subject to referendum. One would have to recall the elected officials who voted for the new MOU with the firefighters.

  • 93gobears

    The best way to foil this stall tactic by the City Attorney is to inundate them with public records requests from numerous different sources.

    Doing so will: 1) put additional preasure on the city to release the records; 2) estabish the public mandate that the records be released in a timely fashion; and 3) help delay any important city action upon which these records may reflect.

    Think about it. The city is getting a new city manager, slashing city services, and attempting to negotiate a new contract with a Fire Department whose actions have been characterized as shameful, requiring a transparent outside investigation, and has been an embarrassment to the city of Alameda.

    Why shouldn’t the public get access to this information in advance signing off on a multi-year contract with a public union which the public suddenly feels they cannot trust.

    I emplore all of you to make your own public records request so that the city knows that the citizens of Alameda mean business.

  • joel

    RECALL THEM I will put my money where my mouth is time to stop special inteRest and buddy system.

  • Liz Williams

    I have made the same records requests Denise has and am about to make more. I’m with Joel on this: it’s time to recall Gilmore at the very least, but also Tam and Bonta. What a disaster they are for our city.

  • alameda vigilante

    WTF, AFD??? [City & county of Alameda, too!] They’re PUBLIC records, kapiche? You don’t “own” them, anymore than you own the people you work for, the residents of Alameda! Stop trying to hold us hostage for your reindeer games!
    D’Orazi, Zombeck, Olson, Waggener, Vogelsang…maybe yall should be put on UNPAID administrative leave till U remember who pays you the big bucks!

  • alameda vigilante

    PS: Send email turn-downs of your public records requests to the LA Times (which broke the Bell scandal)California public records “project”: documents@latimes.com. Click on http://documents.latimes.com/sunshine to learn how & why you should.

  • Queenie

    keep it up and soon you’ll be asking for public records from the same folks you instructed to deny access.

  • So true. Honesty and everything rceoigzned.

  • acreccsucks

    Alameda County Fire Dispatch definitely contributed to Mr. Zack’s death. But that’s not the first death they’ve contributed to. Over the last 6 years HUNDREDS of call responses have been screwed up by dispatch. You’d think the people involved would have resigned in disgrace already. Chief Gilbert, what’s keeping you?

  • Note that ACRECC is the formal abbreviation for Alameda County Regional Emergency Communications Center – the dispatch center that handles Alameda Fire Department 9-1-1 calls and dispatches apparatus. ACCREC is what Action Alameda News has been referring to in simple language as “alameda county fire dispatch.”

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