Texas Government Code 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.
It’s not brain surgery. It should be Pretty simple to understand even for a high school graduate. However, one would expect a licensed attorney to not get hemmed up. Then consider this part of the law:
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.
There was a recent dustup over an allegation bond reductions for those arrested in the Twin Peaks incident were contingent on signing a waiver agreeing not to sue the city or county. I immediately call BS on this primarily because such a waiver would be worthless.
This is the recap.
It started with a press release from a law firm in Houston. The allegation was detainees were offered reduced bond amounts if they would sign a waiver and promise not the sue the citycounty. I checked their website and the press release is no longer available. The document is available at
The story went viral. The effort to verify the claim was instantaneous. I filed a public information act request with the local DA’s office.
On June 3rd, I received a letter from the DA’s office requesting clarification:
It is common for government entities who want to delay access to public information to send a similar letter. It should be clue one that you are onto something. It works 99% of the time and requestors abandon the request. What is notable about this letter is the highlighted portion. In the letter, Mr. Harmon reveals there are numerous records responsive to the request. That’s great, right?! It would be, if the objective of the letter was to comply with the law instead of an effort to stall for time.
Local news media detailed the DA sent an e-mail to local media which denied any such waiver existed. The Trib covered a denial by both district judges.
Here is my response to the letter from Mr. Harmon:
In a later meeting attended by the attorneys and Criminal District Judges Ralph Strother and Matt Johnson of the 19th and 54th District Courts, Jarrett repeated his earlier disclosure, reading the texts he received from Ms. Lannen from his phone to the judges.
I received not acknowledgement from the DA. It appeared they ignored my follow-up so I went to the office in person to access the information. On 6/10/2015, around 3:30 pm, I arrived and delivered the letter indicating there was numerous responsive documents. The lady behind the 2” glass called Mr. Harmon who said there was no responsive information available. I filed this request on returning to the office.
So if you are the DA, you can ignore the law. If you are a little old lady who hasn’t mowed her grass, it’s the poky for you. Welcome to McLennan County.
It is the same for the Sheriff. This just came in today.
Not the first time either: