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Sarah Palin speech documents should be public, judge rules

August 26, 2010 |  7:53 am

The contract and other documents related to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's fundraising appearance at a Cal State campus should have been made public, and officials violated the state's open-records law when they refused to release the information, a judge has ruled.

Cal State Stanislaus and a foundation affiliated with the campus were sued in April after failing to disclose details of Palin's contract, including her speaking fee. Officials argued that the nonprofit foundation that hosted the former Republican vice presidential candidate was not subject to the state's Public Records Act.

They also argued that the contract with the Washington Speakers Bureau, which represented Palin, was confidential.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Roger M. Beauchesne ordered Cal State Stanislaus officials to release the contract as well as other documents related to the use of university facilities, personnel and services surrounding the June 25 fund-raising gala.

Beauchesne agreed that the foundation was not subject to the open-records law. But he found that the university failed to follow correct procedures and that Cal State Chancellor Charles B. Reed "used" the contract to the university's advantage.

"The reasonable inference from the evidence produced is that the university, in its official capacity, has 'used' the contract between the Washington Speakers Bureau in the conduct of the public's business; therefore, said contract is also a public record and should have been produced to petitioner," Beauchesne wrote in the opinion filed Monday.

After the suit was filed, the university released hundreds of documents, mostly e-mails, relating to Palin's appearance but not her contract. In one of the e-mails, Reed addressed the controversy over Palin's fee with an official from the speakers bureau.

In July, the foundation confirmed that it had paid Palin $75,000 for her appearance.

Attorneys for Californians Aware, the government watchdog group that filed the lawsuit, issued a statement saying they were pleased with the decision.

-- Carla Rivera