City Releases Public Information That They Denied Me Back in November 2014

elpaso-censorI do not know if I have the worst luck or that I’m just the target of the city’s attempt to keep me from receiving information via the Texas Public Information Act. I have shared with you numerous examples of where the information given to me is either contradictory via two sets of open records requests or different from the public record. The latest case involves an open records request I submitted on October 20, 2014.

As of yesterday, March 11, 2015, I am still waiting for a response from the city regarding the names of the companies that submitted bids for the proposed waterpark in the Northeast. I followed protocol and submitted an open records request asking for the name. On November 5, 2014, the city responded that it was not going to give me the names of the companies and instead asked the Texas Attorney General’s Office for an opinion on whether they were required to comply with my request.

Other than the notice from the city that they were denying my request and had submitted it to the Texas Attorney’s office, I have not heard anything else. I have been patiently waiting for the information, following the rules as laid out.

However, I now know who the companies are. They are Hawaiian Falls, which I had already suspected and Fieldhouse USA. You are probably thinking that the city finally got back to me on my request. No, I found out who the companies are in a report by David Crowder that was published in the El Paso, Inc. on March 9, 2015.

Apparently, and it is the only thing I can deduce, the city releases the information to a select few individuals and withhold it from individuals, like myself, that do not toe the political line. Crowder reported the date, February 19, 2015 that the city notified the two companies that the bids had expired. The reason the city had denied releasing the information to me is that the disclosing the information to me “would give advantage to a competitive bidder.” How that is true is something I disagree with.

However, from the moment the city decided to not pursue the project, the information should have been released to me immediately because the reasons for withholding it is no longer valid. However, I have yet get the information from the city.

Instead, the city has apparently released the information I requested to David Crowder going so far as to grant him an interview by a city official about the status of the project. This, while my request, apparently sits in some bureaucratic black hole.

Some individuals have commented that I should file complaints with the Texas Attorney General on other issues I have had with receiving responses to my open records request. I expect someone will suggest the same about this latest example.

However, the fact is that the Texas Attorney General is already involved, since November and I have yet to receive any notice that the Texas Attorney General’s office that it has added my request to its docket. The truth is that the only thing I know, at this point, is that the city sent me a letter notifying me that they have forwarded my request to them.

This is not the first time that I have tried to involve officials at the state level. Back on July 29, 2014, I filed an ethics complaint with the Texas Secretary of State against Steve Ortega for what I believe to be a campaign contribution violation. You can read the full details at “Lavándose Las Manos: Why You Can’t Hold Politicians Accountable.” I was forced to go directly to the Texas Secretary of State because the Texas Ethics Commission has determined that I do not have standing and therefore they will not accept a complaint from me.

I have documented the allegations and I am not able to file a complaint. Therefore, my allegations will not be investigated. You might also remember that I asked the county attorney to intervene on my behalf to force the El Paso Children’s Hospital to release documents under the Texas Public Information Act because I believe that are subject to open records requests by virtue of them using taxpayer funds. I have yet to receive even the courtesy of a receipt response.

I have followed the rules and pushed for the freedom of information as far as I can, short of filing lawsuits. Filing a lawsuit is cost prohibitive and will likely result in more bureaucratic impediments to the notion of freedom of information.

In the case of the water park, clearly the city has determined that only certain people have a right to access public information while the rest of us are just shepherd along through a bureaucratic jungle designed to keep government secrets.

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “City Releases Public Information That They Denied Me Back in November 2014

  1. I filed an Orr some years ago against a local agency that stonewalled me and appealed to the AG. The AG contacted me for my side of the story, agreed, and ordered them to produce the documents. Justice in Texas is slow but still possible

  2. Based on the timing and subject matter, it appears the AG ruling back in January addressed the city’s request to withhold the information you asked for. Usually, the requestor should get a copy of the AG decision via mail, and this decision says the requestor was cc’d. https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/opinions/openrecords/51paxton/orl/2015/pdf/or201501148.pdf

    The AG is required by law to respond to a request to withhold information within 45 working days, which translates to nine weeks, or more if holidays were involved. That’s what makes me believe this is the response to your request. A Jan. 21 response seems to be right in the 45 working day window, assuming the AG received the request a couple days after the city sent it. It’s also the only request from the city regarding a bid handled by the AG this year.

    You are probably correct that the information is now public since the city aborted the bid process. However, you’d have to file a new request. A government has no legal obligation to reopen a previously decided records request because circumstances have changed.

    1. Researcher, Thank you for the research and information you have provided. It appears that you are correct in that the link you provided has to do with my request. For some reason, I never received a copy of the AG’s opinion on this matter. I also went back into the city’s open records dashboard and the last status update for my request was the original letter forwarding my request to the AG’s office.

      Thank you for following up on this,
      Martin

  3. Part of the problem that is not being addressed is release of information by the government to a select few. This action creates rumors and distrust among the public. “What are they hiding ?” becomes the question. The answer IF provided is no longer believable because of the mistrust.

    We have entered a period of time that everything that happens at any level of government automatically creates conspiracy theorists. It gets to the point that one situation develops several thoeories and there’s no convincing anyone of anything. WE are the government, so what has happen to us that while every politician talks about transparency, there is nothing but spin, lies in our best interest, redacted documents, hidden documents. Again if there’s nothing to hide…..Executive sessions are the one of the new ways to hide information or protect us from ourselves. Who has access to minutes of the those meetings ? The hoops to even receive your own files are incredible, again to protect us. And what is this nonsense that although the bids were cancelled so now the requestor has to submit another request? Is it really for protection of the bids or create job security for some clerk? And why is it that selected members of the media have easy access and are even invited, others spend months and years to receive the same information. Case in point, Martin’s requests and Stephanie’s requests and the Congressional committees subpoenas. Again, the question is if you have nothing to hide, then why not just release the information ? Such a simple solution and all we see is pissing contests. Just RELEASE the information !

    No wonder the government is no longer trusted. Our local government officials reputation is no better than than of a third world country. Where for a buck anything can be done, even murder. As I stated earlier, every politician yells the mantra for transparency until they’re elected and suddenly everything becomes opaque. Why? What happens to them once in office that they become evasive and sneaky ? Is it an exhibition of power, feeling important, stubborness, arrogance or just plain crooked? Or is that so much is hidden the trust is gone and even the truth is suspect.

    Want the people to trust you, then OPEN the books. It’s our money and our country. And we are smart and mature enough to understand even better than most elected officials. We elected you to to represent us, keep us informed and be honest.

    All the meetings and seminars to determine why people don’t vote are a waste of time. An exercise in futility. The people are frustrated and given up hope. The trust is gone, it’s that simple of an answer. What’s the point of voting if the officials do as they wish regardless. Even the voting booths are suspect along with the voting officials. The trust is gone and politicians couldn’t care less, they do nothing to reclaim that trust. They simply go into executive session and have people submit requests in triplicate. Of course, the request scrutinized for a missed period or one misspelled word in order to reject the request, perhaps wrong color of paper.

    Stop hiding behind legal walls ! To borrow from President Reagan , ” Officials TEAR DOWN that WALL ! “

  4. no trust, thats not going to happen. transparency is a campaign cliche. four names allala gets vindicated and hardly a wimper. every bought dolt for city office will find another way to engage in shenanigans.

  5. ratoneS Rodriguez and barack’s dirty deals. ratoneS now appointed to board of Border Environment Cooperation Commission.

Don't hold back, you know you want to comment, go for it!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.