Since completing his mission, which was done as part of an advocacy campaign for Californians Aware, an open-government watchdog group, McKee has grown even more distrustful of the state. “It is hard to have faith in your government,” he said, “or to know what they are doing, or to have a say in what they do.” McKee, who lives in La Verne, delivered the audit results at a Capitol press conference in March. The failing report card caught the attention of at least one lawmaker and also appears to have embarrassed the governor, who seeks to portray himself as an ardent defender of sunshine laws. In reaction to the audit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an executive order that required 250 state employees to undergo public records training. They, in turn, will train others in their respective departments. “Anytime there is questionable access to public records we should be concerned,” said Schwarzenegger spokesman Bill Maile. Meantime, Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, plans to put together legislation to toughen penalties for agencies that fail to comply with records requests and expand Internet access to public documents. “There is nothing wrong with training but, as we told the governor’s people, a lot of this kind of thing naturally erodes over time,” said Terry Francke, executive director of Californians Aware who is also helping Leno craft the bill. Francke, who helped revise the Public Records Act in the 1980s, attributed the poor performance to “bureaucratic drift.” Some of the state agencies have a long way to go to drift back into compliance. Three of them, the DMV, the Department of Social Services and the Department of Justice, wouldn’t even allow McKee into the building to ask for records. Still others refused to consider his requests until he identified himself and his purpose – questions the law prohibits them from asking. The student knew to remain calm, having done this before. Last year, for his senior project in high school, McKee surveyed every public agency in the San Gabriel Valley. The local governments had their problems, but fared much better than their state counterparts. He earned an A. In conducting the state audit, McKee asked for four specific documents: the conflict-of-interest form for the top-ranking employee, the agency’s written guidelines for accessing public records, the employment contract for the top-ranking employee, and the most recent lawsuit settlement of $100,000 or more. “None complied exactly as the law requires,” the report says of the 31 agencies, “and many ignored almost entirely their duties as mandated” by the Public Records and Political Reform acts. “It’s a good thing we really don’t need these documents,” McKee said, adding that he was always conscious of how his treatment might affect someone who really did need the records but who’s unfamiliar with their rights. His keen interest in public records might at first seem strange. And one might wonder why McKee chose to spend his winter break grappling with bureaucrats. That is, until one realizes who his father is: PCC chemistry professor and Californians Aware President Richard McKee. As proud as the elder McKee is of his son, the younger McKee is equally inspired by his dad’s tenacity. “He’ll stay up to two in the morning sometimes,” related Ryan McKee. “I just don’t know if I have the same drive he does. I think I get frustrated too easily.” His smile takes a sly twist, “There are many times when, if they refuse, I want to talk back to them.” Richard McKee beams at his progeny. He is proud of the way Ryan handled himself during the audit and prouder still of the way Ryan has handled the subsequent media attention. One of the most aggressive open-government activists in the state, Richard is usually the one in the limelight, whether he’s giving an opinion about a public records controversy or suing over the latest open-meeting violation. Their roles have reversed in recent weeks, with Ryan’s name appearing in print and Ryan speaking before journalist conventions. “That is the way I’m known now,” McKee joked. “I’m Ryan McKee’s dad.” But the younger McKee said the good press isn’t always good. He needs to retain a bit of anonymity for the audits to come. “The less press I get,” McKee said, “the more chances I have to do this over and over again.” [email protected] (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4458160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event“Sometimes I had to withhold my laughter through the ridiculous parts,” McKee noted, referring to the strange – and unlawful – demands a few officials made in response to his requests. Mild-mannered and with an easy smile, McKee sloughed off the conflict. He didn’t get angry. He didn’t argue. Instead, he deducted points for each and every delay, denial or roadblock put up by the agency officials. Then he put together a report card on how each of the state agencies had fared in complying with the law. He gave out just three As, one B and a few Cs. But most of the 31 agencies failed outright, bringing the average down to an F. “The Department of Consumer Affairs, they were by far the worst,” McKee said, recalling how officials there kept demanding he show them a business card even after he explained that he was self-employed. “I walked in and asked to see the person in charge,” McKee continued, “and they said they wouldn’t help me.” At 18, Ryan McKee knows all about rejection. Twice in the last year, the Pasadena City College freshman has suffered the obstinacy and ignorance of government officials as a way to test compliance with the California Public Records Act. Most recently, he spent three days in Sacramento auditing 31 state agencies, from the California Coastal Commission to Caltrans. More often than not, officials stonewalled McKee or outright refused his requests – in a few cases, they gave him grief for even asking to see government records.