Braun v. City of Taft was a case before California's Fifth District Court of Appeal in 1984 concerning the request of salary cards and letters of appointment.
This case established that records of addresses and phone numbers can be considered public records and do not fall under the privacy exemption.
- Braun, as a city council person, requested a number of records in order to investigate the appointment of George Polston for transit administrator.
- Braun requested a salary card and two letters announcing the appointment and rescinding the appointment and was allowed to see the individuals personal file and copy the salary card.
- He released the records of the salary card and both letters to the press.
- Polston filed a grievance against Braun for unwarranted invasion of privacy.
- Braun made an official public records request of the documents he had already viewed. This request was rejected by the city.
- The city council censured Braun for the action on the grounds that the records constituted an invasion of privacy and that the release of the public records did not outweigh the public interest in concealing them and they are thus exempt pursuant to statute 6255.
- Braun filed suit and the court agreed that the items were public records and remanded the decision concerning censure to the city council for reconsideration.
- Braun appealed for attorney fees, and the city appealed the decision concerning public records.
Ruling of the court
The court affirmed the decision of the lower court and ruled the documents were public records and that Braun had no right to attorney fees.
The court began its considerations with a look at the San Gabriel Tribune v. Superior Court which dictated that all records held by public offices and necessary to the "discharge of public duties" are public records. Under this definition the records in question are clearly public records as they pertain to the business of the city. Further, neither the release of the salary card or the letters was found to be an invasion of privacy because any information on those documents that did not fall under the previous definition of public records, like Polston's address, phone number and other contact information, was not secret information that could not be found in any phone book or public directory. Further, because the information was not secret, the public interest in not disclosing the records in order to obtain future information from applicants and employees does not outweigh the public interest in the disclosure of the information. Finally, the court ruled that Braun had no right to attorney fees as he was acting in his own interests in defending his reputation and not on the public behalf.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Ruling of the Court