SACRAMENTO — Acting in a closed-door session, the Fair Political Practices Commission on Tuesday voted not to appeal a Superior Court order to open its investigative files on former Democratic Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Frank Vicencia of Bellflower.
The 3-0 decision resulted from a lawsuit filed by the San Jose Mercury News to try to determine why the FPPC cleared Vicencia of conflict-of-interest charges relating to his business ties to convicted political corrupter W. Patrick Moriarty.
The court ruled that certain documents in the Vicencia case should be made public but others should remain confidential.
"We were advised by our attorney that the decision on appeal probably would be the same, so we will follow the advice," said John Larson, FPPC chairman. "The commission is not here to simply make hurdles for people and engage in unnecessary litigation."
A 12-year legislative veteran, Vicencia decided to retire and return to his insurance business last year rather than seek reelection.
The newspaper's demand to see the files also prompted the introduction of a bill backed by legislative leaders of both political parties that would prevent such files from being made available to the public.
That measure, defeated in its first Senate committee hearing, was scheduled to be voted on again Tuesday, but action was postponed at the request of the author.
It now is scheduled to be amended and reconsidered after the Legislature returns from its four-week summer recess Aug. 17.
The author, Assemblyman Elihu Harris (D-Oakland), said he is considering an amendment to provide for a judicial appeal process if the commission declines to open its investigative files.
"I haven't got the amendments straight yet," Harris said after the committee took the bill off the agenda. "I want to look at the bill in the light of the language of the judge's decision.
"We must find some way to resolve this conflict between the public's right to know and the right of privacy."
Michael B. Dorais, lobbyist for the California Newspaper Publishers Assn., said even with such an amendment, Harris' legislation would still be a "bad bill."