Texas Attorney General Exempts Friends from Freedom of Information

frnds-secrets-txagVeronica Escobar argued to the Texas Attorney General that her years-long friendship with Susie Byrd is reason sufficient to exclude her from the Texas Public Information Actand the Texas AG bought into that argument. That is the essence of Escobar’s reasons for not releasing the public information records about El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen in her possession. Whoa, what? Let’s backup for a moment and let me catch you up on the latest in regards to my complaint against Veronica Escobar’s refusal to release public information records.

As you likely know, in August I filed a complaint with the Texas Attorney General alleging that Veronica Escobar had failed to release public information documents. The documents are about the letter she organized about El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen’s comments about Black Lives Matter. Escobar has argued that any communications between her and the other public officials, in regards to the letter, were not conducted under auspices of the County of El Paso and therefore they are not subject to the Texas Public Information Act. Never mind that many of the letter signers are elected officials, under Escobar’s argument the deliberations they held about organizing and the contents of the letter are not public information.

Since, Veronica Escobar had not sought a Texas Attorney General opinion on whether she could withhold the documents, as is the common practice, I was forced to file a complaint with the Texas AG. The Texas AG gave her ten days to either release the documents to me or seek an opinion from the AG asking whether she could withhold the records I had requested.

Escobar did neither.

Instead, Veronica Escobar, through the County Attorney’s Office, argued that the communications she held with the other elected officials about Greg Allen were not official public deliberations and thus she is not obligated to release them under the Texas Public Information Act.

The Texas Attorney General agreed with her.

In a letter I received from the Texas Attorney General on October, 14, 2016, the Texas AG wrote that they were satisfied that Veronica Escobar had released the documents I had a right to, one document, and that they considered the matter closed.

The TX AG’s letter to me included a copy of the arguments postured by the County Attorney’s Office as to why Veronica Escobar did not have to release any documents to me. In essence, I do not have access to the Greg Allen documents in Escobar’s possession because they are “not official business of the County.” Because they are not official business, Veronica Escobar does not have to submit them to the Texas Attorney General for review.

The County Attorney’s Office argues that to require Veronica Escobar to submit her documents to the Texas AG “may cause great hardship.” The County Attorney adds that Escobar’s friendships with many elected officials creates numerous records which may not be official business related. The County Attorney offers Susie Byrd as an example:

“Susie Byrd is one such individual. Judge Escobar has been personal friends with Susie Byrd for approximately 20 years, which long predates when either of them ever became an elected official. Thus, to ask for any documents to or from her, even if those documents are on the County Judge’s private cellular phone or email account, could clearly result in many responsive documents which have absolutely nothing to do with the official business of the County of El Paso.”

The bottom line is that as long as Veronica Escobar hides behind the notion that her communications with Susie Byrd, Jim Tolbert and others are between friends then don’t bother asking for the documents under the public information laws of the state. Byrd and Tolbert are elected officials, along with Veronica Escobar, and according to the Texas Attorney General as long as they communicate via private messaging services you don’t have a right to see the communications even if they involve public policy discussions. You have to take her word that their communications were not “official business” even though it involves setting public policy by demanding that the El Paso Police Chief be censured by the City of El Paso.

That’s the bottom line, so don’t bother trying to pierce through the backroom communications that are taxing you to death.

For those if you who are interested, you can read the letter by following this link. It is the last letter in the set.

4 thoughts on “Texas Attorney General Exempts Friends from Freedom of Information

  1. Lol, she must have a whole lotta friends that she had “private” discussions. That would explain why the county is in such a mess. She’s too busy with friends.

    Wonder the AG did state that personal information like a phone number, address or grocery list could be redacted but the decision would of what is private would be made by an independent soucre.

    Maybe they relive the whore house tours and guvmint cheese.

  2. Ok if this was all Vero’s private business she was conducting as a private citizen and she wants to claim that then it seems there is a problem with her using her official position in government in using public assets, the County Attorney’s office on the tax payers dime, to defend her private rights and interest before the Texas AG’s office. Seems Vero can’t have it both ways and now Vero should reimburse the people for cost and use of those public assets. Right?

  3. The city is a corp. The county is an office and separate in law. Jurisdiction is the key to understanding this whole……. Foia’s can’t jump the jurisdictional fence….Corp. Has cover…aginst foia’s..

  4. I question the AG judgment, and what is the basis of their decisions to go against your FOIA.

    Like I said before, it is a Quid Pro Quo system that protects each other who are part of the club. I think the other person who so articulately said this as well is George Carlin. He knew that this whole system was a corrupt political mafia. And they are.

    When you have people who are elected and engage to damage the career of another that doesn’t fit their agenda…you have a mafia of sorts.

    I will look into RICO acts about using positions against the will of “voters” both at the local level and state. Both systems of government are in violation RICO laws.

    Thank you for your work in doing this. It is just difficult to get to do the right thing, when the very system is built against you knowing what is going on in the first place. It is a criminal body that creates and enforces “laws” or “statutes” against you.

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