Rancho Palos Verdes Will Subpoena Former Mayor for Records

The City of Rancho Palos Verdes says it's been trying to get its hands on former Mayor Brian Campbell’s city emails for the past two years. Now, it is taking an unprecedented step, using its subpoena powers to access the files.

By a unanimous vote, the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council has authorized the issuance of a subpoena to retrieve the emails, following multiple failed Public Records Act requests. The League of California Cities says it may be the first time a city in California has subpoenaed one of its own officials for public records.

According to City Attorney Dave Aleshire, the hunt for Campbell’s emails has already cost the city $87,000. But Campbell and his attorney say he’s not to blame and that the subpoena is completely unnecessary.

“The law is the law and I’m doing the best I can, but these are huge requests,” said Campbell, who served on the city council for eight years. “This is all political with a couple of people who are pursuing political grudges at taxpayers’ expense.”

Campbell’s attorney believes the city is setting a dangerous precedent.

“I’ve never seen city officials subpoena former city officials in absence of litigation,” attorney Jeff Lewis said.

The subpoena is expected to be issued sometime this week. Campbell will then have 20 days to hand over all relevant emails, which have been stored on a private Gmail server. If he doesn’t, Rancho Palos Verdes can take him to court.

The city council has also instructed an ad hoc committee to review any documents it receives.