Psst, keep this to yourself — City council gets briefings without the public’s knowledge

Ed Shikada
Ed Shikada

BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Alto City Manager Ed Shikada has been giving weekly briefings to City Council without the public’s knowledge since he started in 2019.

In these email briefings, he asks council members to keep some information to themselves, according to records obtained by the Post using the California Public Records Act.

When Pets In Need told the city it was ending its contract to run the Palo Alto Animal Shelter on Nov. 15, Shikada emailed the letter to all seven council members, and he copied six department heads.

“We will not proactively share this development with others, to provide staff time to meet and determine appropriate steps forward,” he wrote.

Shikada also asked council members to keep it to themselves when he told them that Pets In Need was naming a new executive director, and that he had requested a meeting with her. Shikada wanted council members not to disclose that Stanford was having a military flyover before the Big Game on Nov. 20. Two F-18 fighter aircraft flew over the stadium from Moffett Field.

Shikada asked council members on Nov. 2 not to tell the public that former Mayor Tom DuBois was working on becoming a “sibling city” with Bloomington, Indiana. Shikada didn’t mention the news during his public comments to council on Nov. 8.

DuBois revealed the relationship the next day during a press conference with Bloomington’s mayor.

Shikada defends briefings

Shikada said in an email to the Post that his briefings are not shared publicly because they’re written in an informal style, “reflecting their small audience.” The briefings “assume knowledge of issues and don’t provide background as we would for public-facing reports,” he said.

He said he started the briefings in mid-2019 to provide council with a heads up on notable items and announce them publicly later. It wouldn’t be appropriate for him to announce someone else’s news, he said.

He said the briefings shouldn’t be characterized as private because they can be obtained through a records request. However, the state open records law allows the city to delay the release of documents for up to 10 days. And after that point, the city can postpone the release even longer for certain reasons.

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