Email Gate: More to Come?

As with all litigation, it is common practice for all involved parties to keep publicity of the ongoing events as quiet as possible in order to retain the upper hand in the proceedings. It is therefore difficult to discern what exactly the next step is in regards to the ongoing battle between the city and Stephanie Townsend Allala’s quest for transparency in the ongoing saga that is the ballpark.

At this point what we know is that the city has taken the position that the private emails held by former city representatives that pertain to public policy, are in fact, the property of the taxpayers. Notwithstanding that, the city has also taken the tact that they will voluntarily ask former and current city officials to turn over all of their emails as requested by the Townsend Allala’s open records request. You can read more about this in my previous post by visiting this page.

There are many reasons for the city’s actions and we can all assume why it is that the city has taken this stance. However we must keep in mind that the city is now under a new administration, although, at the same time there are two individuals, with vested interests in keeping the emails secret, still in a position to dictate how the process plays out. Both Sylvia Firth Borunda and Joyce Wilson are still involved in the process that is playing out.

Firth Borunda, as the city attorney, advised city council and litigated on behalf of the city to halt the release of the emails. She has both a personal reputation to uphold as well as a duty to protect the interests of the city, as her employer. Her motives, at this point, have to be accepted as driven by those two concerns.

As for city manager Joyce Wilson, her reasons for keeping the emails secret range from public humiliation, as evidenced by those that have already been released, to outright corruption at the city. We can only assume at this point why it is she would want to withhold the emails but her own actions forces us to make assumptions as to why she would choose not to do so.

Through all of this, Oscar Leeser’s administration has taken over city hall and his part in all of this fiasco may simply be an attempt to “move on” and accept the outcome. Or, it could be that the information he is receiving and accepting from all those involved is incomplete or purposely deceitful. Or, it might be as simple as him not clearly understanding what is truly going on. However, Leeser’s actions, or lack of, have no bearing on the outcome as, at most all he can do is delay the inevitable.

For her part, Stephanie Townsend Allala has been clear about what her goals are in regards to her open records request and that is that all of the relevant emails be released to the community as they should be. She has stated publicly that she is willing to litigate this matter to the end. She has also demanded assurances that previous and all future releases be in fact fulfilling to the spirit of the original open records requests, therefore she has required that the officials state under oath that they have complied.

Contrary to the speculation by the useful idiots, the fact is that Stephanie has not asked that she be given free rein to ransack through officials’ personal communications. Rather she is demanding accountability, a simple thing cleverly ignored by the useful idiots.

Therefore what could the next step be?

As I wrote above, it is in the best interest of the litigants to keep their strategies out of the community discussion to maximize the outcome and to protect their rights. Therefore I can only speculate at this point as to what might come next.

From experience I therefore assume that the next step is for Townsend Allala’s attorney to force compliance with the request. To do so, Bill Aleshire would have to depose the people that have refused to comply with the transparency doctrine of an open society.

I would not be surprised to learn that soon, if they have not already been served, that Susie Byrd, Cortney Niland, Steve Ortega and Joyce Wilson be summoned to answer questions about their involvement in this fiasco.

I expect that the first confirmation of this event is that some, if not all of these individuals will start to retain legal representation, apart from the one already provided for the city as far as Niland and Wilson are concerned. Byrd and Ortega, as private citizens should be required to pay their own continued defiance of open government.

As much as the city and the baseball proponents would want this issue to go away I get the feeling that the floodgates of transparency are about to open up, much to chagrin of the horde.

The funny thing about all of this is that the only thing that Stephanie Townsend Allala did was file an open records request. Susie Byrd, Cortney Niland, Steve Ortega and Joyce Wilson have now forced a simple open records request into the court system where legal rules apply. Not only are these individuals subject to having to answer questions under oath but by their own actions they have now opened themselves up to the possibility that they could face criminal prosecution for their actions.

Steve Ortega may ultimately get his wish that a judge orders him to release the public records as required, however he might also have to answer to the legal system as to why he feels that the Texas Open Records Act does not apply to him, which coincidently carries with it criminal sanctions.