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High-Speed Rail wipes key documents from website

The High-Speed Rail Authority removed a vast array of documents – including business plans, authority board meeting materials, and change orders on the multi-billion dollar project – prior to 2016.

Monday, Asm. Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) demanded the return of the documents.

According to a letter sent by Patterson to the High-Speed Rail Authority, the agency removed the documents around June 28.

“The Authority claims to have replaced dozens of change orders with ADA compliant spreadsheets but has no intention of returning these important documents in long form to the website,” Patterson said.

The Authority’s website also removed many antiquated business plans prepared before 2016 that show the dramatic increase in costs associated to build the rail line.

Because of the mass removal of documents, anyone seeking to retrieve the documents must do so through the California Public Records Act (PRA) process.

Unlike similar requests at the municipal level, public records requests for state agencies are considerably more cumbersome and often result in costly lawsuits for production of documents.

Recently, Asm. Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield) proposed a bill to create a public ombudsman that would review requests as an intermediate step before for PRA rejections before heading to the courthouse.

That bill, Assembly Bill 289, was momentarily killed by Assembly Democrats while under review in committee.

“It’s sad but true that [High-Speed Rail is] using the Americans with Disability Act as a cover to remove potentially embarrassing information from the public domain,” Patterson said. “We won’t stand for it. There’s no reason why these documents shouldn’t be permanent and immediately available to every member of the public along with ADA compliant data.”

The San Joaquin Valley Sun
Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.