Community Action Agency appeals court’s order to open financial records – Chico Enterprise-Record

CHICO — The Community Action Agency of Butte County is appealing to overturn a Butte County Superior Court decision made in November 2020 that the agency must turn over financial documents and open its records.

In November, Butte County Superior Court Judge Tamara Mossbarger ruled that the agency is subject to the Freedom of Information Act and the California Public Records act because it is a public entity and receives federal grant funding.

Community Action Agency, a non-profit organization that manages the Esplanade House and the North State Food Bank, is represented by the Sacramento firm of Diepenbrock, Elkin, Dauer, Stephens and McCandless LLP. Esplanade House is a program that provides transitional housing and services to formerly homeless families.

Tom Tenorio, the director of Community Action Agency, said he couldn’t disclose information while the case is currently under appeal.

“We are pleased that the state Attorney General’s Office and several associations representing hundreds of nonprofits have seen fit to support our position and end harassment like this. That’s where it stands,” Tenorio said.

Lynne Bussey of Chico filed a lawsuit against the CAA in 2018. Davis-based attorney Paul Nicholas Boylan filed the lawsuit on Bussey’s behalf. Bussey, along with Gregg Webb and Gary Incaudo, were one of the main donors for the Esplanade House through the Esplanade House Children’s Fund.

Bussey said she had concerns about mismanagement of funds by the CAA and had offered a $100,000 donation in exchange to see budget items and financial records. When the CAA refused to turn over the documents and rejected the donation, Bussey then filed the lawsuit.

“You have to be pretty desperate to turn down a $100,000 donation rather than agree to open your books,” Bussey said. “That was the red flag for me. … The only explanation I could think of was that they were hiding something big. So I made a formal request to see their records, and Tenorio refused.”

The documents that were to be turned over within 30 days of the original ruling included check registers, travel reimbursements to Tenorio, credit card statements, CAA board minutes, emails, records “to determine the actual costs of running Esplanade House, a videotape by “Half-a-Bubble Out,” and checks made to the Northern California School of Law.