Oral Arguments were heard today in Austin. Bill Aleshire, the best open records attorney in Texas, was the star: The court was skeptical of the city’s argument that they have no right to retrieve government records.
Stephanie Townsend Allala reports from Austin that oral arguments before the Texas Court of Appeals have gone well, with her attorney Bill Aleshire representing her in the open records case with the City of El Paso as their opponent. One of the justices is quoted as having referred to Steve Ortega as “recalcitrant.” The City of El Paso, following bad advice from both internal and external lawyers, has already spent about $100K to keep from complying with open records laws. I think this case is a piece of cake for Bill Aleshire, whom she had not met in person until today. See the cake from STA’s fundraising reception last Tuesday. Also seen is her award for her advocacy for open records and government transparency presented by “The Show” with Hector & Abel on FOX 1150.
Help change our state and city open records laws: Contribute by sending checks payable to:
Riggs, Aleshire and Ray, 700 Lavaca, Suite 920, Austin Texas 78701
It appears the El Paso City Attorney has never shared with the Council and Mayor the settlement offer given last August by my attorney, Bill Aleshire. Some sworn statements and a few depositions about the process the city uses to collect Public Records, and the lawsuit is over. The city has already wasted $95,000 of our treasure fighting to hide Public Records. Please call the Mayor, City Representatives, and come to City Council every Tuesday until they agree to this most basic step. If we cannot access these government records, then we are powerless against corruption. Empower El Paso and please make those calls!!!
Bill Aleshire writes:
Steph, below is the “clarification” of the AG’s position on appeal. You may share this with anyone you so desire. Also, attached is the settlement offer we made to the City that they get sworn affidavits from the city officials that they have turned over the requested records and to pay about $2,000 in attorney fees.
Seeing the Council discussion yesterday, really makes me wonder if the Council has ever seen the information below and attached to this email.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says he’s not interested in enforcing the Texas Public Information Act, or TPIA, in a letter to the Third Court of Appeals. Last week, Abbott declined to give his opinion in a case in which he is being sued, City of El Paso v. Greg Abbott and Stephanie Townsend Allala.
In September of 2012, El Paso attorney Stephanie Townsend Allala filed an Open Records Request for all private emails and text messages between elected City leaders about any City business over an eight month period. In an attempt to delay the release, the City of El Paso sued Abbott and Allala, claiming it has no way of gathering the documents, and that the only person who has the power to do so is El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza.
Allala and the City of El Paso have both filed briefs in the case, set for oral arguments on May 22nd. However, an attorney for Greg Abbott has sent a letter to the Third Court of Appeals, stating Abbott agrees with the City of El Paso’s position that private emails and texts about city business by elected leaders can never be seen by the public. Were it the law of the land, it would result in state-sanctioned corruption. Attached please find Ms. Allala’s response to Abbott’s letter.
City v. Allala has changed the way government does business in Texas. Elected leaders across the state are being warned that City v. Allala means they must forward all such communication to an official email account when received or created, as they are all public records.
Stephanie has already spend more than $40,000 in attorneys fees in order to help stomp out corruption in El Paso. If you believe in good government and transparency, please send a check for any amount to: Riggs, Aleshire and Ray, 700 Lavaca, Suite 920, Austin, TX 79701.
El Paso, Texas – In a brief to the Third Court of Appeals of Texas, attorney Bill Aleshire, representing Stephanie Townsend Allala, points out that the City of El Paso continues to resist well-established law concerning open records with arguments contradicting the very purpose of those laws. (See attached brief.)
The City of El Paso argues that it has fully responded to requests for open records made by El Paso elder law attorney and community leader Stephanie Townsend Allala, Intervenor in the case of City of El Paso v. Gregg Abbott, Attorney General of Texas. “The city continues to resist the depositions of current and former El Paso city council members and staff, has inappropriately redacted records provided, has not provided other records and documents requested, and has failed to follow even the most basic requirements of Texas open records and transparency laws. The city continues to violate the Local Government Records Act, which requires that the city retain all records concerning city business including personal emails and text messages on personal cell phones. Moreover, taxpayer dollars continue to be spent on needless litigation that only serves to delay the release of vital public records,” said Stephanie Townsend Allala.
The Brief of Intervenor Appellee Stephanie Townsend Allala asks “this Court to uphold the trial court’s denial of the City of El Paso’s plea to the jurisdiction, award Intervenor Appellee its appellate costs, and remand the case to the trial court for a determination of an award of attorney fees pursuant to Tex. Gov’t Code section 552.323(a) for Appellee’s costs associated with this TPIA lawsuit in district court and for such other relief to which Appellee is justly entitled.”
Last August, Mayor Oscar Leeser and City Council instructed the city attorney to drop the lawsuit and release all public records. Many community members and taxpayers wonder why this has not occurred and seek an explanation.