Fullerton Apologizes, Settles ‘Hacking’ Lawsuit With Local Bloggers

The City of Fullerton has settled a lawsuit with two local news bloggers which carried significant implications for journalism and free speech.

The bloggers, who run a site called Friends for Fullerton’s Future (FFF), were accused of criminal hacking by the city after they published digital files pertaining to police misconduct. There’s just one problem. Fullerton’s system was never “hacked.” The files were among a cache of documents in a publicly available dropbox folder that FFF found online. The city neglected to make the folder private.

As part of the settlement, Fullerton has publicly apologized to the bloggers and admitted to its mistake. It will also pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and legal fees.

As for FFF, it has agreed to return the rest of the documents in its possession, which was “the entire goal of the litigation,” according to Fullerton’s attorney, Kimberly Hall Barlow.

The vote to settle the suit was 3-2 with City Council Members Jesus Silva and Ahmad Zahra voting no. They were among four members who initially voted to pursue the litigation. The other two are no longer on the dais.