A feud over office spending between Assemblyman Anthony Portantino and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez escalated into a battle over appointment books Thursday, as Portantino decided to buck leadership by releasing his legislative calendar to the press.
The La Cañada-Flintridge Democrat released today six months' worth of calendars detailing his meetings and other commitments in response to a request from the Associated Press. As the AP has reported, its previous requests for the daily calendars of all 120 legislators have been repeatedly denied.
Portantino, who has been publicly battling with Pérez over cuts to his office budget, told The Bee that he decided to release his calendars after experiencing a "rude awakening" about how "hard the Assembly leadership works to maintain secrecy."
"We're at, I think, a critical crossroads in California. We have serious problems ... and for the Assembly leadership to be putting so much time, money and energy into maintaining secrecy vs. solving the state's problems, it's unconscionable," he said.
Releasing his own calendars, he said, reflects his belief that "the public has a fundamental right to know how its government is working."
Portantino has been pressing for the Assembly to release legislators' 2011 budgets since receiving word that his own staff and resources were being cut. He says the documents will show that his budget was slashed to punish him for being the lone Assembly Democrat to vote no on parts of the budget package approved in June. Pérez's office counters that Portantino has exceeded his allocated funds and had already been warned that he was over budget.
The Assembly Rules Committee rejected formal Legislative Open Records Act requests from Portantino and from The Bee to release the current year office budgets. The Bee has joined with the Los Angeles Times to file a lawsuit challenging the decision to withhold the records.
A spokeswoman for Pérez had no immediate comment Thursday. Rules Committee Chief Administrative Officer Jon Waldie told the Associated Press that while it was Portantino's "prerogative" to release the calendars on his own, the committee recommends against such actions "because we believe there are security concerns involved, according to our sergeants."
Read the full Associated Press story on Portantino releasing his calendars here.
Editor's note: This post was updated to clarify Waldie's comments to the Associated Press.