California Gov. Brown Shuts Down Transparency Website

Sacramento, California – California Gov. Jerry Brown has shut down the government transparency website created by his predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, as a repository for financial disclosure statements and other records.

A note on the website,, says information once available on the site can be found on other state websites and furnishes the links. But open government advocates objected to the website's closure, claiming citizens will find it more difficult to track spending.

Many of the documents contained on the website – including information about state contracts, audits and salaries – can be found on other sites. But the transparency site, which was created in 2009 and shut down Tuesday, also included travel expense claims submitted by senior agency officials and employees of the governor's office.

Brown's office said Wednesday that travel records can be requested under California's open records act. Elizabeth Ashford, a spokeswoman for the Democratic governor, cited the time and cost of coping and uploading those documents.

Ashford said the website was created in response to concerns about travel and spending during Schwarzenegger's administration. Staff and travel costs under Brown are far lower, she said.

Phillip Ung, a lobbyist for Common Cause, the government watchdog group, said there is a “large public interest in having a centralized disclosure, which is exactly what the transparency website was.”

When he saw a note on the website Wednesday afternoon announcing its discontinuation, Ung said, “This is the worst.”

The note says Brown “is committed to keeping state government open and transparent while eliminating inefficiencies and unnecessary costs.”

Brown last month rescinded the executive order under which Schwarzenegger, a Republican, created the website. The action accompanied Brown's veto of labor-backed legislation that would have required the state to post contracts of $5,000 or more on the site.

Brown said in a message accompanying his veto of the bill, by Democratic Assemblyman Mike Eng, that information about state contracts could already be found on a Department of General Services website.

“While governmental transparency is laudable, there's no need for a new law,” Brown wrote.

© 2011 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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