Media gives nod to tight info control nationwide

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National media outlets gave recognition to an ongoing dispute. CNN, The New York Times and the Houston Press published articles

R.S. Gates

Newly supplied information counters a claim by District Attorney Abel Reyna that his office provides complete and total transparency. In correspondence dating back to May of last year, the Texas Attorney General has ruled three times the District Attorney of McLennan County has violated the Texas Public Information act, a Class B misdemeanor, equally serious as a charge of DWI.

On Monday Reyna called allegations he violated the Public Information Act “Asinine” but in May of 2014 the Attorney General determined “The McLennan County District Attorney Office violated section(s) of the Public Information Act.

In November of the same year, the AG determined “Based on the evidence before the undersigned, the McLennan County DA office has violated this section of the PIA (Public Information Act). This is not the only complaint with similar findings.”

More recently, on Oct, 13 2015, the Attorney General determined “The McLennan County District Attorney is hereby notified that the Attorney General Office determined it had violated the PIA (Public Information Act)

 The DA is confusing dealings with the media with dealings with Gates because, the truth is, getting information from the DA is a drawn out fight, and the DA has to be compelled by law to do his job.  It takes as much as 6 months to get a determination from the Attorney General because of the statutory requirements, and if Abel Reyna was committed to transparency, he would have released the information in June, when the request was filed, instead of October.

 The worst part is the contempt the DA has for his statutory duties has spread to other offices in the county. He points to a 2015 determination where the AG ruled Sheriff Parnell McNamara violated the Texas Public Information Act. “Based on the available evidence, it appears the McLennan County Sheriff violated Sec. 552.223.

 I recently filed a request for a spreadsheet related to the budget. The request was filed with County Auditor Stan Chambers. After receiving no acknowledgment of the request, he went to the office to retrieve the information.  He was stymied in his attempt by a receptionist who said she didn’t know anything about it and Mr. Chambers was out of the office so the information was unavailable.

 How else to consider this as other than a violation of Sec. 552.353, Sec. 552.221, and Sec. 552.021 of the Texas Public Information Act? The charge is a Class B Misdemeanor, equal in seriousness to a DWI.

All those individuals who operate the way they do in McLennan County will realize they can’t stand the scrutiny of their crooked ways. You and I know that every other place is the U.S. is as messed up as Waco, Texas; they just haven’t had a Twin Peaks yet.

Sec. 552.353.  FAILURE OR REFUSAL OF OFFICER FOR PUBLIC INFORMATION TO PROVIDE ACCESS TO OR COPYING OF PUBLIC INFORMATION.  (a)  An officer for public information, or the officer’s agent, commits an offense if, with criminal negligence, the officer or the officer’s agent fails or refuses to give access to, or to permit or provide copying of, public information to a requestor as provided by this chapter.

 Sec. 552.221.  APPLICATION FOR PUBLIC INFORMATION;  PRODUCTION OF PUBLIC INFORMATION.  (a)  An officer for public information of a governmental body shall promptly produce public information for inspection, duplication, or both on application by any person to the officer.  In this subsection, “promptly” means as soon as possible under the circumstances, that is, within a reasonable time, without delay.

 Sec. 552.021.  AVAILABILITY OF PUBLIC INFORMATION.  Public information is available to the public at a minimum during the normal business hours of the governmental body.

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