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Fresno Council Revises Anti-Leaker Plan, Limits Punishment



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A revision to a proposed Fresno City Council ordinance would no longer punish recipients of leaked confidential information emanating from City Hall.
Following criticism from First Amendment groups, a new version released Tuesday would still hold current and former city employees accountable (including elected leaders) for unauthorized disclosure of confidential information. However, a section regarding punishing those who receive such information is no longer part of the ordinance’s language.

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Also added are whistleblower protections shielding the release of confidential information “if an official or employee believes there is a legal violation,” and the employee only discusses the matter with law enforcement. It also exempts punishment if an employee discloses information based on a recommendation from the city attorney.

Protect Closed Session Discussions

The ordinance, sponsored by councilmen Mike Karbassi and Garry Bredefeld in conjunction with Mayor Lee Brand, is intended to protect attorney-client information discussed in the closed sessions of council meetings.
The closed session part of a public meeting is legally allowed to be held out of public sight. However, the Brown Act limits what items can be discussed — mainly labor negotiations, personnel matters, property negotiations, and litigation involving the city. Any formal action in closed session must be reported openly.
Both Karbassi and Bredefeld said punishing recipients of leaked information, including media, was not their intent.

Ordinance Changed

Glen A. Smith, litigation director for the First Amendment Coalition, told GV Wire that punishing recipients of leaked confidential information is “blatantly unconstitutional.” Experts expressed concern about how such punishment might affect media organizations from engaging in First Amendment-protected activities.

While the ordinance builds in whistleblower protections, it still lists the unauthorized dissemination of confidential information as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
The council is scheduled to debate the ordinance at its Thursday meeting.

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email