LION members reach settlement with sheriff over blacklist
The publishers of a California news site, LakeCoNews.com, have settled a lawsuit against a local sheriff after his office agreed
The publishers of a California news site have settled a lawsuit against a local sheriff after his office agreed to stop blacklisting them and provide public records.
John Jensen and Elizabeth Larson, members of LION Publishers who run Lake County News, reported that a stipulated judgment was reached in their case against Lake County Sheriff Frank Rivero.
The agreement, approved by a local court, calls for the sheriff to "fulfill several Public Records Act requests by Lake County News that had been stalled, delayed or withheld, and for the online news organization to once again be given access to press releases from the agency."
The publishers are requesting attorney's fees resulting from the case.
The site reported that members of the Lake County Board of Supervisors will seek the sheriff's resignation, with a no-confidence vote scheduled for a March 19 meeting.
Representing Larson and Jensen, Davis attorney Paul Nicholas Boylan said the settlement is the very best possible result in the action.
"I have been saying that Sheriff Rivero holds all the cards in this action, that he could end this lawsuit at any time by agreeing to treat my clients fairly and provide them with information that they are entitled to receive both as journalists and as members of the public," Boylan said.
"After months of delay, that is exactly what happened: The sheriff changes position, removes my clients from his 'black list' and provided them with information and documents that they requested – and he agreed to a stipulated judgment that can be enforced if necessary should he continue to discriminate against my clients," Boylan said. "This is an excellent result that advances the causes of government transparency and freedom of information."
In the lawsuit, filed in Lake County Superior Court in December, Jensen and Larson alleged that Rivero retaliated against them and their publication because Rivero is angry about coverage that has been critical of him.
To justify the blacklisting, which began last October, Rivero accused Lake County News of publishing misinformation and likened the publication to the National Enquirer.
The reporting at issue included a series of articles in which the journalists uncovered that Rivero was under investigation by Lake County District Attorney Don Anderson for allegedly lying about a 2008 shooting in which Rivero was involved while working as a deputy.
That investigation concluded last month, with Anderson determining that Rivero had lied and that he was to be placed on a list of "Brady" officers with credibility issues.
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