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Santa Rosa sticks to secrecy policy for council applicants

Three Santa Rosa residents had applied by the close of business Friday for the vacancy on the Santa Rosa City Council, but City Hall was sticking to its policy of keeping confidential all applicants' names, position statements and related information.

The city on Thursday rejected a request by The Press Democrat under the California Public Records Act seeking disclosure of the names and related records. The city cited what it called a "deliberative process exemption" to the law that allows agencies to withhold documents if "the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record."

The deadline for applying for the council vacancy is 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. City Clerk Terri Griffin said that although the city does not consider the names and applications to be public records, she would make them available for review Wednesday.

The council passed the confidentiality policy on Tuesday. Mayor Scott Bartley said it would preserve the integrity of the appointment process and prevent potential applicants from getting discouraged from applying when they saw who else might be seeking the appointment.

Councilman Gary Wysocky voted in favor of the policy, but said Friday he didn't give much thought to the confidentiality provision. "I just didn't think it was a big point," he said. "We're talking a very short period of time."

He said that in retrospect, after considering how the policy is "inconsistent" with laws governing the release of information about candidates for election, he "would probably change my vote" and support a more transparent process.

Despite the policy, word continues to leak out about who may be seeking the appointment.

Winery executive Hans Dippel, who finished eighth in the 2012 election, said his paperwork is ready to go, including nomination signatures, financial disclosures and answers to the council's nine questions.

He said he's seeking appointment in part to honor those who supported his campaign. He received nearly 14,000 votes.

"If I were not to apply, that would be like giving up on them," Dippel said.

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