Attorney General of Texas Orders County Attorney to Release Records

ag-order_sept16aYesterday 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.

14 thoughts on “Attorney General of Texas Orders County Attorney to Release Records

  1. WOW, hope she is forced to release the documents. It’s about time.

    “What you whisper today will be shouted from the roof tops tomorrow”.

  2. Martin
    What the letter means is the AG’s office is allowing the County and Judge to rebuttal your complaint. It’s not an enforcement letter which most we have gotten will tell the party to render the requested documents in so many days or take it to court to have the enforcement by the AG’s office over turned.
    Martin this is why the videos of the Judge from the local media was so important to give weight that she was acting in her official capacity as judge in her communication with the city leadership on the issue.
    Now the County will be forced to render the documents for review by the Texas AG’s office and then an opinion will be given and if the AG sides with you what documents you get and a enforce letter to render the documents.

  3. You could just ask the receiving parties for their emails from the Judge since they were likely received on a public server. Unless everyone in local government has gone “hillary” as a result of the stadium FOIAs.

  4. Thomas, we understood the actions. At least she is feeling the heat that people are questioning her. Something she feels should never happen to her.

  5. Sooner or later
    Since you want to be a critic of those trying to help Martin what have you done to “bring the heat” on the Judge or CCC? Please do enlighten us!

  6. I am not criticizing anyone. Get the chip off your shoulder. Another burned out light build deciding what others state. Last time I looked this is Martins blog, not yours!

    What the heck have you done for the community besides defend low lifes. I do plenty for the community.

  7. The letter is kind of BS. This is the way it works:

    A government entity has 10 business days from receipt of an ORR to request an opinion from the AG. If they are not requesting an opinion, they must release the information as quickly as possible. If they do not notify the AG within 10 business days of receipt of the request, they must release ALL requested information. The county attorney should have known this.

    At this point, according to the AG, the county should not have an opportunity to request an opinion. They missed their deadline, due to their arrogance. This is not the first time this has happened over there.

    https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/og/open-government

    Statutory Requirements

    The statutory requirements that apply to governmental bodies that have received requests for public information can be found in the Public Information Act, which is codified at chapters 552 of the Government Code.

    Within 10 business days of receiving the request for information, a governmental body must submit:

    To the Attorney General:

    Must ask for Attorney General decision and state which exceptions apply to the information within 10 business days after receiving the request. Section 552.301(b).

    To the Requestor:

    Must provide written statement that the governmental body wishes to withhold the requested information and that the governmental body has asked for an Attorney General decision. Section 552.301(d)(1).
    Must provide a copy of the governmental body’s written communication to the Attorney General in which the governmental body asks for a decision. If the governmental body’s written communication to the Attorney General discloses the requested information, a redacted copy must be provided. Section 552.301(d)(2).

    To the Third Party (if applicable):

    Must make “good faith attempt” to notify affected parties. Section 552.305(d).
    Notice must be in writing and in the form prescribed by the Attorney General. Section 552.305(d)(1)-(2).

    Within 15 business days of receiving the request for information, a governmental body must submit:

    To the Attorney General:

    Written comments stating why the stated exceptions apply. Section 552.301(e)(1)(A).
    A copy of written request. Section 552.301(e)(1)(B).
    A signed statement stating the date the request for information was received by the governmental body or evidence sufficient to establish the date the request was received. Section 552.301(e)(1)(C).
    Copies of the documents at issue or a representative sample of the documents at issue. Section 552.301(e)(1)(D).
    Must label the documents to indicate which exceptions apply to which parts of the documents. Section 552.301(e)(2).

    To Requestor:

    A copy of written comments stating why the stated exceptions apply. Section 552.301(e-1).

  8. Good Work!

    I did not follow the content subject well re Black Lives Matter and then the very not so unusual comments and influcence by Government Actors that happens every single day.

    But it does not matter, both comments are protected speech and the issue is not content but one of open government via open records law.

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