So it was widely supposed that one of the purposes of Shirley Fuller’s big Public Records Act request was to determine who in the county “leaked” Kay Backer’s March 31 Board of Supervisors letter and an addendum to the Humboldt Herald blog. The request asks for all county e-mail correspondence between April 1 (the day after the letters were sent) and April 4 (the day they appeared on the Humboldt Herald) that contained the word “HELP” in the subject line. (“HELP” is the acronym of Humboldt Economic Land Plan, the general plan update pressure group that Backer, a Sacramento lobbyist, heads.)
Does the county’s response to Fuller’s request shed any light on this question? Alas, not really. In the first place, the county declined to comply with the larger portion of her request; it claimed that the county’s computer infrastructure “is unable to reduce a computer search to the subject line containing the word ‘HELP’.” Okaaaaaay: So this and another portion of the request – one that requested all county correspondence with a specific list of organizations and individuals over a nine-month period, which was denied on the same grounds – are out. It will be curious to see if this alleged inadequacy of the county’s IT infrastructure is interrogated further.
But the county did comply with the last part of Fuller’s request by handing over most of Lovelace’s correspondence over the period in question – minus legally privileged material – so we can at least examine the Humboldt Herald leak theory from that angle.
As noted previously, Lovelace did in fact forward the Backer letter to two people: Jen Kalt and Elizabeth Conner, both affiliated with the Healthy Humboldt Coalition, which is sort of the anti-HELP. Lovelace was certainly within his rights to do so; Backer’s letter was, itself, a public document. But did Lovelace’s forward represent the Humboldt Herald “leak”?
Not likely. For one thing, Lovelace forwarded the Backer document to Kalt and Conner on the day after it was sent – April 1. Three days passed before it was posted on the Humboldt Herald. So it seems unlikely that Kalt or Conner would be “Heraldo,” the anonymous blogger[s] behind the Humboldt Herald.
Also, Lovelace’s inbox shows that Backer’s letter was out in the public well before April 4. On April 1, Cutten resident Sharon Yost forwarded Lovelace the precise text of Backer’s addendum, apparently under her own name.
So it’s well-nigh impossible to pin the Humboldt Herald “leak” on Lovelace, or – given this evidence at hand – on anyone at all. The real miracle is that despite being in wide e-mail circulation, it took almost three days for the Backer document to be published somewhere.