Public info embargo explained – our story


Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 10.09.49 PM

Powerful officials in McLennan County government have targeted Legendary information activist R.S. Gates for his meticulous pursuit of public information. It is a provision of a state statute, Section 552 of the Texas Government Code, the Public Information Act, that was designed for news organizations.

Waco Trib reports how the private law firm representing the county needs a raise. (click here)

McLennan County’s attorney hopes leaders adopt a policy aimed at deterring “intentionally abusive” open records requests, while others say the move could be construed as having a chilling effect on access to public information.


By intentionally abusive, he means those requests that seek information they do not want to release but have to by law. How is that abusive? It is a crime to withhold public information. They consider it abusive because they don’t want to do it and there is a consequence.

Attorney Mike Dixon, who represents McLennan County and its officeholders, said county staff is trying to process burdensome active requests before looking into a provision in the Texas Public Information Act that allows counties to charge high-volume requesters for staff time.

Mike Dixon is an attorney who works for a private law firm and charges around $175.00 hr. The interesting thing is Dustin Chapman is an attorney who is a county employee who works for the county Judge but it is unclear exactly what he does or why he can’t do what the private law firm is bilking taxpayers for doing. Could be that taxpayers are only paying Dustin $76.000.00 a year.


“There’s an inherent flaw where government assumes that people are going to use the act responsibly and for proper purposes,” Dixon said. “All too often people use it as a means to inflict cost, inflict a lot of burden on governmental entities.”

Dixon said a few people abuse the system by overloading staff with submissions and refusing to clarify broad information requests. Dixon said the county receives some requests that read as if the individual is seeking information from the beginning of time, and when they are asked to clarify, the requester says, “No.”

Their objective is compliant subjects who take the information given and are thankful for it. They deem a request abusive if the person exercises their statutory right and insists on access to information the government does not want released.

An Earlier Investigation Into Purchase of Diamond Jewelry:

The limit does not apply to elected officials, nonprofit groups or most governmental bodies, political subdivisions or news publications.

Because news publications give you that in depth coverage and ask the probative questions.

The TCOLE Investigation of the Sheriff’s Office:


“There’s significant pushback that either intent or the effect of any limitations would be to chill or discourage or prevent legitimate access and thus undermine the ultimate goal of the Public Information Act, which is to ensure the public has access to public information,” Hemphill said.

Here is what the law says. I think it is profound.

Sec. 552.001. POLICY; CONSTRUCTION. (a) Under the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government that adheres to the principle that government is the servant and not the master of the people, it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed to implement this policy.


“The act is flawed in a lot of ways in that it doesn’t provide any protections against abuse really,” Dixon said. “It’s taking so much time that it’s crazy.”

What is crazy is the extent government will go to to bilk taxpayers. One of the most common requests is for the “bookmarked agenda,” which is the document they send to commissioners in advance of the meeting. They could put it on the website, but this is all about making up a problem to apply to most extreme fix. The bookmark agenda is often 400 pages – a large file.

Mike Dixon was called in to consult in a press conference with the national media, representatives of which were seeking facts about the federally-mandated Emergency Committee of industrial operators and local government officials who are responsible for preventing or reacting to such disasters as the explosion at the West Seed Company, with its attendant destruction of property and loss of life. 

After an hour of ranting and angry behavior in which he would not let network correspondents and reporters for the “Wall Street Journal,” the Associated Press, and Reuters ask questions, Dixon stormed out of the Commissioners’ Court chamber when this reporter asked him for his name. 

“You mean you won’t tell me your name?” I asked, as Dixon fled out the door. I heard from an acquaintance as far away as Rome, a news video editor who saw the interchange. He regarded it as a comic interlude, an example of a very little man clearly overloaded with a responsibility that overwhelmed him with frustration over an unfortunate and disastrous situation in all its complexities.

“They just don’t understand, do they, Jim? They just keep on asking those infernal questions of theirs, don’t they?”

When Gates visited the joint City-County office that oversees the operation, they called the Waco Police, who escorted him out of the building, accusing him of criminal trespass in a public office whose door was unlocked and standing wide open when he arrived.

So mote it be.

  • The Legendary  

One thought on “Public info embargo explained – our story”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

9 × = eighteen