California college paper loses case against governor

CALIFORNIA – A university newspaper lost a major open meetingsbattle on June 1 when the California Supreme Court ruled in favorof the University of California’s Board of Regents.

The Daily Nexus at the University of California at SantaBarbara alleged that through private phone calls, the 25-memberboard of regents, which included then-Gov. Pete Wilson, solicitedvotes to repeal the university’s affirmative action policy beforea public meeting on July 20, 1995.

But the court never decided if the regents’ activities violatedthe state’s open meetings law.

“They never gave us the chance to do that,” said MattHurst, current Nexus editor in chief.

In Regentsof the University of California v. Superior Court, 1999WL 345507 (Cal. June 1, 1999), the state supreme court ruled thata 30-day statute of limitation applied, and had passed when TheDaily Nexus, led by then-staff writer Tim Molloy, filed thelawsuit in February 1996. The Nexus claimed it did not learn ofthe phone conversations until more than 30 days after they occurred.

Nexus attorney Dan Tokaji told the Los Angeles Times,”[The court’s decision] strikes a blow right in the gut ofthe open meetings act….It provides a virtual recipe for publicofficials to act in secret and then get away with it. All theyneed to do is conduct a secret meeting, conceal it for at least30 days, and they get off scot-free.”

“A cloud of suspicion will always hang over the Wilsonadministration,” Tokaji said.

Wilson’s term ended in December 1998.