Contract for PR services made a public record (March 15, 2015)

APPLE VALLEY — A confidential contract for public relations services on the campaign to purchase Apple Valley Ranchos Water Co. has been released by the Town of Apple Valley in the public interest, according to Town Attorney John Brown.

The contract was executed Feb. 24 between Brown and The 20/20 Network, ultimately for the benefit of the town, he said.

The decision was made during the Town Council’s closed session that followed its public meeting on Tuesday night.

We totally support and agree with (the decision), 20/20 Network partner Steve Lambert said. The town is, and should be, transparent in all these matters … It’s the right thing to do.

The contract calls for a monthly retainer of $7,500, three months of additional start-up compensation of $2,500 and reimbursed expenses of up to $1,000 a month. The contract started Feb. 24 and will end Dec. 31, 2016.

Costs billed to Best Best & Krieger will be passed on to the town, Brown, a partner in the firm, said.

But the claim of attorney-client privilege for such contracts can be interpreted from their outset, according to Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Foundation.

I think that lawyers are too quick to assert the attorney-client privilege for anything they’ve touched, Scheer said.

Concerning acquisition of a regulated utility by a municipality, he said, That debate should be informed by as much accurate information as can be brought to bear. Disclosure is always preferable unless there is something in the circumstances that dictate confidentiality.

In keeping with its role, The 20/20 Network prepared and submitted a preliminary strategic PR plan for the town that focuses on sustaining the support of the community in the town’s pursuit of Apple Valley Ranchos.

Source: Gary Brodeur, Daily Press