Palo Alto councilwoman alleges public records request potential invasion of privacy

Palo Alto Councilwoman Liz kniss said she was contacted by 50 people who supported the city’s controversial car camping band before it was repealed but a local activist wants proof that Kniss is telling the truth.

Retired public defender Aram James, who has been a vocal supporter of the rights of the homeless, filed a public records request to see the emails and letters Kniss claimed she received in support of the city’s Vehicle Habitation Ordinance leading up to the Nov. 17 vote when the council appealed the ban.

James wonders why the people Kniss claimed emailed her didn’t show up to City Hall that night to express their support for a law that prevented people from sleeping in their cars.

Privacy issues

Kniss told the Post yesterday that those emails were sent to her personal email account and that she is in discussion with City Attorney Molly Stump as to whether they are subject to James’ request.

“I find it incredible invasion of people’s privacy, since they emailed me personally” Kniss said. “This is a tender issue and many people might not want their name on a public record supporting the ban.”

Kniss voted to repeal the band Nov. 17. The vote was 7-1 with only Councilman Larry Klein voting to keep the ban in place despite the advice of Stump, who warned the council the ordinance could expose the city to lawsuits since a similar ban in Los Angeles was deemed unconstitutional.

“I’ve never had my emails asked for and I’ve been in office a long time,” Kniss said yesterday. James wants to see the evidence, however” I’m looking for the facts” James said. He wants to make sure she is being “straightforward.”

Random checks by the public help ensure government officials are “living up to what they are saying.” Her personal emails are subject to disclosure laws if they relate to city business, he said. “That’s public information,” he said.

Some emails weren’t saved

Kniss isn’t sure, however she saved all the emails in her personal account. Someone may have to “dig it out of storage,” Kniss said.

The city will provide James an answer to his request no later than Dec. 12, according to David Carnahan, the city’s deputy city clerk.

The Council passed the car-camping ban last year. But the city decided to put the ban on hold until December 2013 when it learned of a case that challenged the ban in Los Angeles.

In June, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Los Angeles ban, which prohibited the use of cars “as living quarters,” was unconstitutional because it was too difficult for people to know when they were breaking the law.

Cheyenne Desertrain vs. City of Los Angeles

Opinion United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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One Reply to “Palo Alto councilwoman alleges public records request potential invasion of privacy”

  1. Look out Liz, Aram has a nose like a hound dog, he can
    sniff out truth from lies!
    I guess I should be careful what info I write to public officials!

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