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Mayor's press office emails sought by Daly released only to tabloid

By Pat Murphy

Copyright fogcityjournal.com 2006

August 4, 2006

The mayor's press office Monday released seven emails to one local tabloid earlier denied to Supervisor Chris Daly sought through the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance.

As of 3:00 p.m. Thursday, they had been released only to the San Francisco Bay Guardian, mayoral deputy press secretary Jennifer Petrucione said.

They had not been released to Daly, nor to the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance Task Force that heard Daly's complaint of non-compliance July 25.

The Task Force forwarded the complaint to the San Francisco Ethics Department, which holds subpoena power to compel document release, for investigation.

In a meeting between the Sentinel, Petrucione and mayoral press secretary Peter Ragone, Petrucione yesterday gave an explanation why the seven emails were not released Monday to Task Force or to the Ethics Commission.

"We're paying very close attention to the Sunshine Ordinance and adhering to it and we will be releasing them to the Task Force as well," Petrucione stated.

"I'm waiting on what's called an 'order of determination' which tells us what their next step is so we're just trying to keep them combined."

Petrucione added an explanation why the emails were not released to the Ethics Commission.

"Well, we do not know what the next step is that the Task Force is going to take," she said.

Released to the Sentinel yesterday, the emails offer a glimpse into press office strategy for timing announcements to serve Newsom administration goals.

One email refers to the mayor's January veto of legislation requiring more prominent notice to potential property buyers of property eviction of seniors or the disabled.

The veto prompted Daly's Sunshine request for documents relating to the veto, Daly said July 25.

"Wade (Crowfoot) just got MGN's signature on the letter vetoing Daly's eviction disclosure leg. Matt Franklin and Wade both agree it should be buried. In the interest of good press relations, I thought a call to Charlie Goodyear (San Francisco Chronicle City Hall reporter) and Justin (Jouvenal, San Francisco Examiner City Hall reporter) would be in order. Thought I'd call them around 5, just after Wade files veto with clerk. Please advise," Petrucione emailed Ragone on January 20, 2006, at 4:08 p.m.

It is a public relations tactic nationwide to release potentially damaging information late on a Friday when fewer beat reporters remain at work.

Ragone defended veto announcement timing, saying Newsom signed the veto late on a Friday.

"The release of the veto was contingent on the mayor's signing of the final document and that and that alone," maintained Ragone.

"The reason why the information wasn't released until late in the day was because the mayor didn't get a chance to look at the veto message or finalize the veto message until late in the day. Simple facts here," Ragone added.

Petrucione continued to assert the emails are exempt from release by the Sunshine Ordinance due to their draft recommendation status.

"The Sunshine Ordinance is very clear. We have the right to withhold documents that are the recommendations of the author so we did," stated Petrucione.

Emails writers waived their right to exemption permitting Monday release to the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Ragone said.

"People make recommendations to the mayor.

"In this case those involved waived their Sunshine recorded right to have their recommendations protected," he stated.

Petrucione agreed July 25 to immediately notify the Sentinel if the emails are released and agreed to immediately provide the Sentinel with copies of those emails when they were released.

Ragone gave a deflected explanation why the emails were released to no one but the San Francisco Guardian on Monday.

"They asked for it. They asked for it on Monday and they were on deadline," stated Ragone.

Newsom was out of town when initial decision was made to withhold the emails.

Reached yesterday morning at a Bayview District meeting, Newsom said he supports the Sunshine Ordinance and had told Ragone to release the emails.

"I support the Sunshine laws and I support full disclosure because there is nothing to hide about anything," Newsom told the Sentinel.

"So when Peter Ragone - I find out - didn't send some emails I say, 'What are you doing? Just get them.'"

Ragone's recollection of that conversation with Newsom differed.

"He said, 'You should do what we always do which is follow the letter and the spirit of the law,' and I assured him that we had and he said okay," Ragone told the Sentinel.

The other six emails include:

"I would suggest taking out the line 'Observers of the city's housing market suggest that this trend of Ellis Act evictions in large buildings may increase significantly in the coming year." Jennifer Petrucione to Wade Crowfoot. September 9, 2005, 3:49 p.m.

"Wade and Matt want the Ellis Act working group release sent this AM. OK with you?" Jennifer Petrucione to Peter Ragone. September 13, 2005, 11:27 a.m.

"Why today? I'm open, but what is the reason?" Peter Ragone to Jennifer Petrucione. September 13, 2005, 11:27 a.m.

"They wanted it sent out Friday - but then put hold on it. Now they want group up and running by early next week so it can report back to mayor and Peskin within 45 days." Jennifer Petrucione to Peter Ragone. September 13, 2005, 1:42 p.m.

"The Ellis Act release has NOT gone out yet. Sorry for the delay but my machine crashed leaving me with the recovered version of this doc. Is this correct? Also - we're sending a release out on SF's hurricane relief efforts today, which will bury any interest in the Ellis release. Is it time sensitive? If not, we could send it out tomorrow. Please advise." Jennifer Petrucione to Matt Franklin and Wade Crowfoot. September 13, 2005, 12:51 p.m.

"Matt - MGN wants to include something on Ellis Act evictions in SoC. What's your gut say? If you think it's a good idea what do you suggest we say? 2-3 sentences at most. Please be in touch with me ASAP on this. Thanks." Jennifer Petrucione to Matt Franklin. October 18, 2005, 9:55 a.m.




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