Brown Must Fire Flack Who Secretly Taped Calls*


nixon*Update 11-2-09 2:55 p.m. Scott Gerber has resigned.

The stunning news that a spokesman for Attorney General Jerry Brown secretly taped a conversation with SF Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci, admitting that this something he did routinely, leaves Brown with one and only option: fire the flack immediately.

The paper reported Friday that Brown press spokesman Scott Gerber acknowledged taping the call, apparently in direct violation of California Penal Code Section 632, which says that conversations may not be taped without notice to all parties.

Dick Nixon must be rolling over in his grave.

That a public official so off-handedly violated state law on such a sensitive subject is unacceptable. That the official works for the chief law enforcement officer of California makes it outrageous. That the call focused on a corporation that both had sensitive business before Brown’s office and had made a major campaign contribution to him puts it beyond the pale.

Brown needs to distance himself from Gerber – and fast. No slap on the wrist and mealy-mouthed comments about Gerber promising to actually obey the law in the future will suffice. Surreptitiously taping a reporter – or any citizen – reeks of sleazy,  John Mitchell-era government threat and intimidation. Brown’s got one play here and he needs to make it soon.

Update: Chris Reed at Politicker just posted an interesting take on this. He interviewed Gerber about the ACORN scandal last month and asked him why Brown was investigating the fake pimp and prostitute who had videotaped employees of the group offering help with their fake business and plans for human smuggling, along with the allegations raised by the tapes:

“Gerber told me the AG was investigating because it is illegal in California to tape someone without their knowledge. Which makes today’s S.F. Chronicle story even more amazing.”

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There are 8 comments for this post

  1. avatar sqrjn says:

    I think you mean public official.

    PC 632 was enacted to protect the right of privacy. It limits itself to prohibiting the recording of “confidential” communications. If Gerber was recording statements he was giving the Chronicle for publication he would not be violating anyones privacy or the law. We shouldn’t be rushing to judgment or demanding a man’s job before knowing the truth.

    • avatar pdperry says:

      Bottom-line: He should – as a matter of course – inform folks he’s recording conversations.
      Had he done that, the interview in question would – most likely – had continued just as it did. The reporter wouldn’t have changed her line of questioning.
      There’s nothing wrong with the actual recording of reporter conversations. Strikes me as a pretty smart practice.

    • avatar pdperry says:

      It still stands that **surreptitiously** recording a conversation is wrong and/or illegal.

      Again, he simply needed to alert the media…

    • avatar Ave7 says:

      Penal Code Section 632(c): “The term ‘confidential communication’ includes any communication carried on in circumstances as may reasonably indicate that any party to the communication desires it to be confined to the parties thereto…”

      Seriously? Does anyone think Gerber broke this law? Since when is an on-the-record interview with a reporter, for the purpose of publishing a story, a confidential communication within the meaning of this statute? It is, in fact, exactly the opposite of a confidential communication.

      For those who think the law doesn’t count, who have simply decided that “this is wrong!”, get over it. You need to read up on privacy law if you think the issue is that simple. Try adopting a statute that says “no one can be taped unless they consent” and see how fast modern society unravels.

  2. avatar bjr26 says:

    Put down the buzzsaw, Calbuzz. First of all, the law only prohibits taping of “confidential communications.” Hard to see how on-the-record conference with a reporter from the Chronicle qualifies as confidential. Second, let’s keep in mind that the Chronicle seemingly misquoted (or perhaps quoted out of context) the Attorney General’s chief deputy in the story that ran Wednesday — but now the Chronicle has neatly sidestepped those concerns.

  3. avatar Adelaides Lament says:

    Mr. Gerber’s choice to tape this and other conversations with reporters without informing anyone was completely unethical, whether it was illegal or not. There is no good reason for him to withhold what he was doing unless his intention was to play gotcha.

    • avatar doughnut70 says:

      Come on. It was an incredibly stupid move by someone who is relatively young and made a dumb mistake. It’s not like he was trying to get something on a reporter, he was just trying to keep a record of what was said that he could refer to when he reported back to his boss on any questions he got. I know some people think that when they go to the john, nothing comes out but roses and violets, but this quick jump to fire someone for a human mistake is a little much for my taste. Give him a break.

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