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Councilman Criticizes Candidate for Public Records Request

For the second meeting in a row, an Aliso Viejo councilman knocks a City Council candidate over a public information request. The candidate replies: Every citizen has a right to request public records.

Councilman Criticizes Candidate for Public Records Request

An Aliso Viejo city councilman criticized a council candidate Wednesday night for making a public information request.

Councilman Phil Tsunoda said the request by candidate Ross Chun cost the city about $2,000 in staff research time.

At the last council meeting on Oct. 3, Tsunoda described the request as "rather odd" and "appalling."

"I found it appalling that he would ask in this setting, at this time during the silly season," for the information, Tsunoda said.

Chun said his request involved a contentious park improvement plan between the city and the Aliso Viejo homeowners association. He wanted to read communications between members of a city ad hoc recreation committee and someone who allegedly analyzed the reserve budget of the Aliso Viejo Community Association.

AVCA and the city share the responsibility of governing Aliso Viejo. To understand how this relationship works, read here.

    Chun said he made the request to disprove a statistic quoted by a political opponent about the percentage of AVCA's money held in reserve. Chun served as president of AVCA four times between 2006 and 2012, according to his campaign website.

    Chun defended his information request:

    "It’s the right of every single citizen to request these public records. Nobody should be intimidated…with retaliation from a council member up on the dais. The City of Aliso Viejo made similar requests, in fact more than two dozen requests on behalf of the Aliso Viejo recreation ad hoc committee, which was made up of Phil Tsunoda and Don Garcia."

    Garcia and Chun are opponents in the 2012 City Council election.

    Chun said he does not know how much AVCA spent researching and delivering the requests of Garcia and Chun.

    Tsunoda said if Chun had asked him about the conversation with the budget analyst, the city would have been spared the expense of the formal request. From the Oct. 3 meeting:

    "I asked him, 'Mr. Council Candidate, what answers are you seeking?' And the deer-in-the-headlights, confused answer I received was, ‘I don’t know what I’m asking. I just need to know the information.… I just don’t know, I just need to know in case someone asks me.' What questions might be asked? 'Uh, I don’t know. I just need to make sure I know.' ”

    Chun said he wanted the information to correct his opponent's claim that AVCA holds only 30 percent of its budget in reserve. He said the actual figure is closer to 100 percent. (AVCA doesn't make its budget public.)

    "There is no documentation to substantiate his claim," Chun said.

    Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Chun's estimate of the AVCA reserve budget.

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