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Old 10-31-2009, 05:40 AM
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Default Jerry Brown's spokesman admits secret recordings

Jerry Brown's spokesman admits secret recordings

October 30, 2009

The Associated Press


The communications director for California Attorney General Jerry Brown was placed on administrative leave Friday after it was revealed that he had been secretly recording telephone conversations with reporters, an apparent violation of state law.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday that spokesman Scott Gerber acknowledged taping a phone interview with one of its reporters. It said Gerber also acknowledged recording other conversations with reporters without asking their permission.

When Gerber was asked if he had recorded conversations with other news reporters, he said, "Sure, I've done it before," the Chronicle reported. "Reporters routinely record my conversations."

California is one of 12 states that require notification of all parties before a phone call is taped. Under the law, reporters must notify sources if the interview will be recorded.

The Chronicle said the recordings came to light after Gerber questioned a story on the newspaper's Web site this week and sent an editor a transcript of the conversation he had with the reporter.

Chronicle Managing Editor Stephen Proctor said the newspaper thought the public should know about the recordings by the state's top law enforcement official.

"Obviously, it's troubling whenever someone is recording a phone call without your knowledge, particularly a person in that position of being in the attorney general's office," he said.

He said the newspaper had alerted its attorney but had not decided whether to pursue legal action.

In a statement issued Friday afternoon, Brown's press secretary, Christine Gasparac, said the attorney general did not know the phone calls were being secretly recorded and Gerber taped them "in direct violation of explicit directions regarding office policy."

She said Gerber had been placed on administrative leave and would face "appropriate disciplinary action," but declined to elaborate.

"These conversations were on the record and in no sense confidential. Nevertheless, the explicit agreement of all parties should have been obtained," Gasparac said in her statement.

In a statement to the Chronicle issued Thursday, chief deputy attorney general Jim Humes said: "In the future, Mr. Gerber will not tape any conversation unless all parties agree." He added that Gerber has recorded "a few other conversations" with reporters and would contact them.

Gasparac said the department was investigating which calls were recorded and would let reporters know when it learned of such recordings.

Humes and Jonathan Renner, a senior assistant attorney general, were also being interviewed by the Chronicle reporter on the call Gerber said he recorded. Gasparac said Humes and Renner did not know the conversation was being recorded without the reporter's knowledge. State law says anyone who "aids and abets" the violation also can be subject to punishment, which includes a fine up to $2,500 and a year in jail for the first offense.

The revelations put the attorney general's office in an awkward position, said Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a San Rafael-based nonprofit that advocates for free speech and eliminating unnecessary government secrecy.

"These are the guys who enforce this law. When they enforce it, they enforce it rather vigorously," Scheer said.

Brown, a Democrat, has formed a committee to explore a possible run for governor next year.
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