Newsom's office refuses records request on 'murky' $1B mask deal with Chinese company

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom has denied a public records' request from the Los Angeles Times seeking details into a nearly $1 billion deal for protective masks from a Chinese car manufacturer.

Newsom's office has been criticized over lack of transparency into the contract for weeks and the latest refusal will likely raise even more suspicions. The paper reported that his office has insisted that disclosure into the deal with BYD, which stands for Build Your Dreams, could jeopardize the mask delivery.

“Publishing the agreement now – before performance under the contract is complete – would introduce substantial and unnecessary risk to the State’s ability to secure necessary supplies,” Ryan Gronsky, an attorney with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, wrote to the Times.

Last month, Newsom, a Democrat, told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that Sacramento had just inked a deal to buy 200 million masks monthly, which was considered at the time to be a massive haul amid the international scramble for protective gear needed in the fight against the coronavirus.

“As a nation-state, with the capacity to write a check for hundreds of millions, no billions, of dollars, we’re in a position to do something bold and big,” Newsom told reporters the next day.

Democratic state Assemblyman Richard Bloom, a budget committee member, said  last month details of the BYD deal “are very murky.”

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The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services told the paper that the contract does not need to be made public. A statement said that the agency determined that “all responsive records are exempt from disclosure, including exemptions for records reflecting attorney work product, attorney-client privileged information, or other information exempt from disclosure under federal or state law.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report