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the project, the information should have been released to me immediately because the reasons for withholding it is no longer valid.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.