- Is it public? Public records that aren’t and freedom of information
- Fees abuse and redaction, a dangerous mix
- Lessons in Federalism, State government sets the rules on Open Meetings
- Eyerolling not to be included in definition of disorderly conduct
- Stonewalling via script
- Facebook and the Open Records Act:Guidelines for a Useful Transparent Governmental Account
- SEC FOIA exemption not uncommon, but still poorly done
- Another reason to keep your own records
- I’d like a refund please!
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Category Archives: texas open records
This led to a complaint against Keller by the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct. Keller is seeking to have those charges dismissed on the grounds that mounting a defense would be financially ruinous. Judges in Texas are required to disclose their financial holdings. A year ago, when Keller disclosed hers, she omitted to disclose about $2 million in real estate holdings. The fact that she owns this much real estate might undermine her claim that she would be financially ruined by defending against the judicial conduct charges.
The Dallas Morning News knows about this because they pored over public records of real estate holdings.
Besides defending herself against judicial conduct charges, Keller may now have to defend herself against a separate set of charges having to do with failure to disclose all her real estate holdings.
Marsha Farmer died on Friday, December 26…the same day that the Houston Chronicle published a front-page article about her role in exposing gross waste and mismanagement as a City of Houston-run home repair program.
Marsha Farmer was a determined, persistent whistleblower and open records activist. It was significantly due to records she obtained through the use of open records laws that she was able to establish that contractors in the home repair program routinely over-billed the city for excessive materials and for work that wasn’t performed.
When Farmer told the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program of her discoveries, they initiated an investigation that led to a requirement that the city’s mismanaged program repay $15.5 million to HUD for federal grant money it spent that went nowhere.
Farmer lived in a house that was eligible for home repair under the program she exposed. Her home was flooded by Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001, leading to an aggravated mold infestation. Her attempts to get the city’s home repair program to work on the house led to her suspicion that the agency was mismanaged.
After the Houston Chronicle covered her story in December, the city program agreed to make repairs … new electrical wiring, new siding, structural repairs and new drywall in rooms affected by mold for a total estimated cost of $45,000 to $50,000. She told the paper, “I should end up with a good, strong house that’s ready for another 50 years.”
Marsha Farmer, RIP.
The highest paid employee makes $530,595.
Whatever anyone believes about the connection or non-connection between the phrases “Republican Party” and “fiscal conservatism” on a federal level, do GOP-dominated state legislatures and state governments practice fiscal conservatism when there is very little standing in their way? Anyone? Anyone?
In evolutionary biology, the concept of an arm’s race is used to explain why over time, one species never gets the complete upper hand over the species it competes with. When a species evolves a competitive advantage–say, a hawk gaining keener eyesight with which to spot mice scurrying about far below–mice will evolve a tendency to hide when they spot a hawk shadow. (Or they’ll all be eaten up, which is another story.)
I was reminded of this recently when considering some of the Texas transparency headlines. People who are advocating for open records do this, that and the other to advance their cause. At the same time, people who want fewer records opent o the public are not standing idly by.
I continue to be impressed and surprised at how much great FOIA-blogging comes across my RSS transom.
Our featured post is from Kentucky, where investigative blogger Ed Springston has been blogging up a storm, partly based on the results of open record requests he filed, about mega-problems with the Inspections, Permits and Licensing part of Louisville’s government.
Some of the best in the last few weeks:
According to Sabernomics, the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners at a recent meeting approved a $19 million budget increase to fund a new stadium for the Gwinnett Braves. And I quote, “It turns out that though the Board didn’t mention a word of the cost increase until the Friday before Labor Day, and voted on it the following Tuesday without discussion, county officials were aware of the cost increase well before this time.”
The blog produced by the Michigan State University Libraries points out that when Kwame lost, freedom of information won.
I get why some public officials aren’t in a hurry to hand over the records they’re asked to hand over. But public health information? The spread of the West Nile Virus? What the requesters wanted was information about the location in their county of mosquito traps where mosquitoes with West Nile were picked up, and they got stonewalled. Unbelievable.
In Dallas, Texas, there’s a race for sheriff. There’s also an elections board in the county. The elections board maintains the legally required campaign finance disclosure reports for the sheriff campaigns. That’s how they roll here in the Big D tells the rest of the story, from Texas Watchdog.
Blogger Charles Kuffner at Off the Kuff notes with surprise that ten school districts in the vicinity of Houston, Texas don’t include information on their websites about campaign spending for candidates for their respective school boards.
My favorite quote:
Sonal Bhuchar, president of the Fort Bend school board, said she does not see the need for online reports because “anyone can request paper copies.”
Here’s the original reporting from the Houston Chronicle:
We’re celebrating Independence Day early by highlighting the independent-minded bloggers who are using their right as citizens to find out what’s goin’ on in government. As the new saying goes, “No taxation without information”.
Featured blog post of the week:
When Mike Easley, the Gov. of North Carolina sent his wife Mary on trips to France and Russa in the last fourteen months, no expense was spared. And when I say “no expense was spared”, I mean that $27,000 was spent in one trip on 24-hour-limousine service. The dark corners of government need light is how the Talk Politics blog in NC brings this issue to our attention.
Miffed? I would be, too. $101,584 is a lot to charge for public records.
Some innovative thinking about what to ask for is featured in this blog post at Atlanta Urban Spice; a young man stopped for a traffic violation asks for the police vehicle’s dashboard camera’s video recording.
Only Taxpayer Money notes with concern a recent episode of a school board wanting to dim the lights by requiring that those who ask for records would have to explain how releasing the records would benefit the community.
Meanwhile, a Texas blog, the Ellis County Observer, makes it easy for readers to file a Texas Public Information Act request.
Happy reading, and thanks again to Maverick, for helping find these great links.
We give that advice to bloggers–don’t wait for paid reporters to file Freedom of Information Act requests–go ahead and do it yourself. There are too many units of government for reporters to keep track of under the best of circumstances, and investigative reporters are being laid off right and left.
But the idea to not wait for the press was recently shared by education writer Kent Fischer, who encouraged members of public school boards to not wait for the press. He is encouraging school board members to use the open records process available to them to find out about financial management problems in their school system–before the press finds out.
Fischer is a reporter for the Dallas Morning News. That paper has been running a series on financial problems with the Dallas Independent School District. They’ve uncovered millions of dollars of questionable spending just by looking at public records.
Fischer suggests that board members start by looking at what district credit cards are purchasing. In the case of the DISD, that included included blanket and pillow sets, Star Trek DVDs, iPods, and a subscription to an online dating service.
Update: Check out the comments for an important clarification.
One of the valuable purposes of Sunshine Week is that it gives local newspapers a reason to write a review article about the state of open records compliance in their area. Not infrequently, that results in articles headlined, Open records requests can take time, money.