Yesterday I received a response to the complaint I filed with the Texas Attorney General’s office where I complained that Veronica Escobar unilaterally decided that she could decide what documents were public records and which ones were not. As you might remember, on August 3, 2016, I posted a blog explaining how Veronica Escobar appointed herself the only person to determine whether public records in her possession were public or not. You can read the original post by following this link.
As a quick recap, on July 8, 2016, El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen made some comments about the Black Lives Matters group that resulted in a letter asking city council to repudiate Allen’s comments. The letter was signed by various elected officials. Ali Razavi (MaxPowers) and myself submitted various open records requests asking for documents from Veronica Escobar in regards to formulating the letter and any other conversations between other elected officials about Allen’s comments.
In response, Veronica Escobar, relying on legal advice from County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal’s office, refused to release the documents in her possession arguing that they were “political” in nature and not public information documents.
As a result, I filed a complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s office asking them to intervene.
I argued to the AG’s office that it was normal procedure for elected officials to seek guidance from the Texas Attorney General’s office if they wished to withhold public documents. Veronica Escobar did not do that. Instead, she unilaterally decided to withhold the documents.
The letter from the Texas Attorney General’s office clearly agrees with my assertion that Veronica Escobar should have sought a Texas Attorney General’s opinion before withholding the documents in her possession.
The Texas Attorney General letter states;
“The OAG has civil enforcement authority under the Act. [552.301] Although the office takes that responsibility seriously, we prefer to work with the parties to try and resolve complaints informally if at all possible. The easiest way to resolve this open records complaint is to release the information that was requested, provided the requested information is not confidential by law.”
The letter gives Veronica Escobar ten business days from September 8, 2016 to either release the documents to me, or request an opinion from the Texas Attorney General’s office.
I will keep you posted as I receive either the documents or an acknowledgement that Veronica Escobar has requested an opinion from the Texas Attorney General’s office.
You can read the letter by following this link.