Since 2003, the California Attorney General has been required to maintain “a whistleblower hotline to receive calls from persons who have information regarding possible violations of state or federal statutes, rules, or regulations, or violations of fiduciary responsibility by a corporation or limited liability company to its shareholders, investors, or employees.” Cal. Lab. Code § 1102.7(a).
Last month, I decided to request data from the Attorney General’s office regarding the number of calls that it had received. Much to my surprise, the Attorney General’s office refused to provide the data on the basis “Government Code section 6254, subdivision (f) expressly exempts from disclosure investigatory and security files of the Attorney General including complaints about unlawful practices.” I immediately requested reconsideration on the basis that Attorney General (now Governor) Jerry Brown had previously provided me the same type of information (the current Attorney General is Kamala D. Harris). I also pointed out that the Securities and Exchange information actually publishes a report with far more extensive data regarding its whistleblower hotline.
Now, three weeks later, the Attorney General’s office has relented and provided the requested data. Below is a table that I prepared based on the information supplied by the Attorney General:
The Attorney General’s office should never have refused to provide the information. First, I did not request any investigatory files – I simply asked for the number of calls received. Second, Section 6254(f) expressly requires (with certain exceptions not applicable here) that the Attorney General make public the following:
Notwithstanding any other provision of this subdivision, state and local law enforcement agencies shall make public the following information, except to the extent that disclosure of a particular item of information would endanger the safety of a person involved in an investigation or would endanger the successful completion of the investigation or a related investigation . . .
(2) Subject to the restrictions imposed by Section 841.5 of the Penal Code [prohibiting certain disclosure to arrested persons and criminal defendants], the time, substance, and location of all complaints or requests for assistance received by the agency and the time and nature of the response thereto, including, to the extent the information regarding crimes alleged or committed or any other incident investigated is recorded, the time, date, and location of occurrence, the time and date of the report, the name and age of the victim, the factual circumstances surrounding the crime or incident, and a general description of any injuries, property, or weapons involved.
Thus, the Attorney General is actually required to make public more information than I had requested. Finally, even if the requested data were exempt from disclosure, the Attorney General was not obligated to assert the exemption and could have provided the information in the public interest.