City Agency to Release Contents of LaBonge Computers
The city’s Information Technology Agency will be turning over documents from the computer hard drives of former Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge and his staff next week to current councilmember David Ryu, according to City Attorney spokesperson Rob Wilcox.
Typically, the agency wipes hard drives clean when councilmembers leave office. However, in the case of LaBonge, the city retained the hard drives due to an unnamed number of lawsuits currently in play in Council District 4 (CD4), which LaBonge oversaw for 14 years.
It is unclear why the contents of the hard drives are being turned over now—more than a year after LaBonge left office on June 30, 2015.
“Our office only recently became aware that the hard drives had not been wiped clean and all offices and departments are now moving quickly to make [the] records on the drives available for public inspection,” Wilcox said.
According to Ryu spokesperson Estevan Montemayor, the documents will be provided via USB thumb drives. Montemayor said current CD4 staff will then print the documents, redact any personal information and will ultimately make them available to the public, probably having them stored at the C. Erwin Piper Technical Center in downtown Los Angeles where the city’s archives are located.
Montemayor said staff will be initially reviewing the documents to see if they can finally fulfill some California Public Records requests the office has received in the last year.
Initially Montemayor said emails will not be turned over from the LaBonge administration as they were erased. However, in a subsequent conversation he clarified the emails are not easily accessible and therefore won’t be released.
LaBonge had over 100 boxes of documents from his office destroyed in the months before he left office, in violation of city and state statues.
Los Angeles City Clerk Holly Wolcott said when the discovery was made, that the city had no process for retaining documents of public officials and had destroyed their documents for years.
“The issue has never come up before,” Wolcott said last January. “There is no protocol for the destruction of documents for elected officials.”
Wolcott served as city clerk from 1987 to 1990. She then returned in 2004 to the department but in another capacity. In 2013 she was appointed as Interim City Clerk by Mayor Eric Garcetti and then confirmed in 2014 as City Clerk.
According to Montemayor, the contents of this latest round of documents is unknown, but, he said, he expects it will not be as voluminous as some that were released to the public last February. In that instance the contents of 35 boxes were made publicly available after a deputy city attorney salvaged them at Piper Tech. According to Rob Wilcox, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s office, the deputy had the boxes transported in July of 2015 to city attorney offices where they remained until last January when the city attorney made Ryu’s office aware of their existence. Ryu then released those documents last February to the public.
This story was updated at 3:09 p.m. to make a clarification from Ryu spokesman Estevan Montemayor regarding LaBonge and staff’s emails.
This story was updated at 3:22 p.m. with information from the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office that the city’s Information Technology Agency will bee turning over the documents.