The program has been plagued with problems, which department officials initially tried to cover up.
While the meters did not contribute to erroneous bills sent to hundreds of customers over a year ago, auditors found new problems associated with the program. An untold number of customers – thousands, perhaps – received late bills from the city, resulting in multiple bills at once. That’s because of data entry errors and the way they are handled by a computer system and by department staff.
The audit finds that water department staff underestimated how complicated the project would be. There are still over 150,000 smart meters left to install.
As part of the case, in which an Encinitas property owner sued the city for refusing to release all written communications between the city and developers for a hotel project on Coast Highway 101, attorney Felix Tinkov deposed Todd Mierau, an associate planner for the city.
Mierau said he prints out copies of emails and their attachments that are worth saving and puts them in a physical file. He deletes everything else within a few weeks, where it’s lost to the public record forever.
“Emails are kind of irrelevant,” he said.
Tinkov asked him if he regularly cleans out his inbox every couple weeks.
“Purge it – yeah – physically … it’s not important to the record, essentially,” Mierau said.
He goes on to describe his subjective basis for distinguishing between emails worth saving and those that aren’t.
Kelly Aviles, an attorney who specializes in public record cases, said the state’s loose definition of what emails constitute a public record was intended to capture more records, not less. It hasn’t worked out that way.
“Having those arbitrary destruction policies creates an environment where people can delete things they just prefer the public not have,” she said. “And that’s not the law. It flies in the face of the whole policy.”
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