Yesterday, September 30, 2013, Judge Orlinda Naranjo of the 419th District Court in Travis County ruled that Stephanie Townsend Allala can proceed with the depositions of Susie Byrd, Cortney Niland, Steve Ortega and Joyce Wilson. Judge Naranjo denied the city’s petition to quash the subpoenas.
The judge also ruled that Joyce Wilson’s affidavit, attached to the city’s plea to dismiss the case, was “conclusory and unsubstantiated” and therefore agreed with Bill Aleshire’s objection to it.
All four depositions are scheduled for December.
Steve Ortega has been quoted by the news media that he will not release the public records in his possession until “ordered to by a judge”.
Guess what Steve Ortega?
A judge just ordered you to submit to direct questioning by Stephanie Townsend Allala’s attorney to both turn over your documents and attest to the fact that you have now complied with the Texas open meetings laws.
Although the city would be hard pressed to appeal the judge’s ruling nothing the city has done to date in regards to keeping public records away from the community is ethical or proper therefore nothing would surprise me.
In fact, late in the evening, the city issued a press release alleging that the judge had based her decision on erroneous information provided to the court by Bill Aleshire. Aleshire, for his part, acknowledged his factual error of forgetting that he had previously written to the city that it was ok that the attachments be left off in responses made by the city.
According to Bill Aleshire, the city had the burden to prove that it had turned over all of the responsive documents. The only proof provided by the city was the Wilson affidavit that the judge had ruled as insufficient.
The city attorney’s response clearly lays out how the city intends to continue to fight against complying with the open records laws. The city is attempting to distract from the fact that the city has not released all of the records.
Steve Ortega has admitted he has public records in his possession that he is refusing to release.
How the city asserts that it has released all of the responsive documents is beyond me.
Also, Susie Byrd and Steve Ortega are no longer city officials and as such they have no right to taxpayer funded legal representation and therefore if they wish to appeal the ruling they should be doing so on their own dime.
The next step in this continuing saga is to wait for the depositions of the four individuals involved in this fiasco.
I expect Susie Byrd to comply and either providing any public records in her possession that she has not yet released or state under oath that all of the records in her possession have been accounted for.
It will be interesting to see if Steve Ortega steps up for his friend and agrees to represent her at her deposition, or if she will have to pay for her own legal advice. Byrd is unlikely to attempt to handle this situation pro se.
As for Steve Ortega, I fully expect him to arrogantly attempt to further impede his compliance with the release of the public’s records and therefore he is likely to file diversionary motions in an attempt to delay the inevitable.
However it should be noted by all four; Byrd, Niland, Ortega and Wilson that willful non-compliance of the subpoenas could result in contempt of court charges. Should they ever be proven to have lied under oath or it is later revealed that they purposely destroyed any public records then contempt of court and depositions would be the least of their worries as willful concealment of or failure to release public records are criminal offenses in Texas.
It is usually the attempt to conceal or the obstruction of justice that causes most trying to game the judicial system that results in prison time for them.
As I discussed in yesterday’s post I pointed out that the El Paso Times should be acting as the fourth-estate, instead they seem content to just sit back and the let the issue play out. I wonder how many of the reporters at the El Paso Times would let the city get away with the shenanigans they have been allowed to so far. That goes for KVIA as well. Or, is the current crop of reporters comfortable with Steve Ortega admitting to holding public records in secret. It sure seems like it.
And as for the “crazies”, well they can sit back and savor the chanclazo just delivered to Steve Ortega and cohorts.