Essick v. County of SonomaAnnotate this Case
Sonoma County received a harassment complaint lodged against the elected sheriff of the county, Mark Essick. An independent investigator, Amy Oppenheimer, prepared a written report. A local newspaper requested the County release the complaint, the report, and various related documents (collectively, the Oppenheimer Report) pursuant to the California Public Records Act (CPRA) Sheriff Essick objected to the County’s release of the Oppenheimer Report. In this “reverse” CPRA action, the trial court denied his request for a preliminary injunction barring the Oppenheimer Report’s release. Sheriff Essick appealed, contending the trial court erred because: (1) the Oppenheimer Report should have been classified as confidential under an exemption to the CPRA either as a “peace officer” “personnel record,” or because it constituted a “report or findings” relating to a complaint by a member of the public against a peace officer; and (2) the County should have been estopped to release the Oppenheimer Report because it promised him that, in conducting its investigation, it would abide by the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act POBRA), and it therefore should have been bound to keep the results of the investigation confidential. The Court of Appeal disagreed on both points and affirmed the trial court’s judgment.