Brown urged to adopt Transparency Code

Jerry Brown

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-One of California's leading taxpayer advocates Friday took aim at Attorney General Jerry Brown for filing legal actions against greenhouse gas emitters, including governments at all levels, at the same time the Golden State faces a historic cash crunch. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said, for example, when Brown sued the County of San Bernardino a year ago, taxpayers there were forced to pay for both sides of the case. "It is difficult to see how the people of California come out ahead when they are forced to sue themselves," Coupal wrote in an op-ed published Friday by CaliforniaRepublic.org. Brown, a Democrat, filed suit against San Bernardino County under the state's Environmental Quality Act because in its general plan, the Southern California county did not address concerns of global climate change and air quality. The lawsuit was settled last August. In a settlement, the county agreed to, among other things, inventorying known, or reasonably discoverable, sources of greenhouse gases in the county and set a target for emissions reductions. More recently, Brown sued the federal government for the release of court-mandated EPA studies examining greenhouse gases and their affect on public health. "Regardless of one's stand on global warming, the extent to which greenhouse gases contribute to it or the propriety of the state's attorney general attempting to regulate it, the logic behind this approach to litigation is perverse," Coupal wrote. Brown, who is widely expected to run for governor in 2010, is not the state's first attorney general to pursue aggressively local governments and thus the taxpayers who support them, Coupal said. He said Brown's predecessor, Attorney General Bill Lockyer, also a Democrat, routinely hired outside attorneys with "no-bid contracts shielded from public view." Coupal, in his op-ed, urged Brown to adopt the Transparency Code proposed by the American Tort Reform Association, based in Washington, as a way to allow more sunshine into the California Department of Justice, which the attorney general heads. He said the voluntary code "includes no-brainers such as committing to post all contracts with vendors, including outside counsel, on a Web site for public inspection." Other open-government provisions include requiring the state to competitively bid contracts for outside counsel, allowing for legislative oversight for contingency-fee arrangements with outside counsel and requiring counsel hired on a contingency basis to report hours worked, services performed and fees received from the state. "Thus far, Attorney General Brown has only taken modest steps in joining the growing movement across the nation to improve transparency in the attorney general's office and increase accountability to taxpayers," Coupal wrote. From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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