The Santa Barbara News-Press was provided less than half the records it requested relating to any and all of Santa Barbara City Councilmember Cathy Murillo’s written communications, e-mail exchanges, and web browsing history about the News-Press and the Latino rights group PODER between January 2 and January 12.
City Attorney Ariel Calonne provided News-Press editor Scott Steepleton two e-mails Murillo received on her City Hall computer. One was a short note exhorting her to continue giving the News-Press hell over the daily paper’s use of the term “illegal” to denote immigrants in the county without legal documentation. The other was a lengthy letter from a man whose son had been killed by a hit-and-run driver who turned out to be such an immigrant.
Calonne notified Steepleton that the city would not provide records of Murillo’s Internet browsing history about the same subjects on the same dates. “How and when she chooses to use private e-mail accounts as well as the identity of those with whom she may communicate is at the core of the deliberative process privilege,” Calonne wrote. Steepleton, he said, provided no explanation as to the point of his investigation or what public value the information might have. Should he do so, Calonne added, his office would re-evaluate the request.
Murillo has long been outspokenly critical of the News-Press and participated in two recent protests in front of the newspaper’s digs in De La Guerra Plaza objecting to the paper’s use of the term “illegal.” What, if anything, the News-Press might do next, remains uncertain. E-mails to the paper for clarification have not been responded to.