A story in today's (March 5) Los Angeles Times shows the importance of investigative journalism—the old-fashioned kind that more and more news organiztions are less and less inclined to pay for—in keeping government officials honest and free from corruption. But it equally shows the importance of
- the Political Reform Act in requiring officials to disclose financial ties that might compromise their integrity,
- the California Public Records Act in tracing paper trails of decision-making through contracts and e-mail documentation, and
- laws that require the preservation of public records—including e-mail—for several years, rather than promptly destroying them.
The story as the Times summarizes it is that "(a) company co-owned by the vice president of Mission College in Sylmar collected more than $500,000 for working on a public construction program that she oversaw on her campus, records and interviews show."
This reporting would not have been possible if this public college, required by law (Title 5, California Code of Regulations Section 59020 et seq.) to retain records for at least three years, had engaged in the casually prompt and routine destruction of e-mails that Californians Aware has been challenging in several cities.