in Houston, Texas

Mayor Bill White kept his calendar, correspondence with developer hidden from public view

files/2008/09/billwhite.jpg
Wednesday, Apr 22, 2009, 04:53PM CST
By Rosanna Ruiz
Mayor Bill White has for more than two months hidden his calendar and his correspondence with a developer, but the attorney general says White must now release at least a portion of this information.

White argued to keep some of the records under wraps after Texas Watchdog requested them in January under the Texas Public Information Act. However, he hasn't released any of the records.

White

Texas Watchdog requested his 2008 calendar, as well as correspondence between White and developer Marvy Finger, whose firm built condominiums adjacent to a downtown park.

White declined to release the information citing privacy concerns and instead sought an attorney general's ruling. Other local and state leaders have made their calendars public following similar requests.

It is unclear whether White's stance centered on information found in his calendar, his communications or both. Texas Watchdog challenged White's position to the attorney general's office.

The mayor will abide by the AG's open records letter ruling, a mayor's office spokesman said.

Texas Watchdog sought communication related to a 12-acre park, which opened last year. Discovery Green is a private-public venture in which the city contributed more than half the land for the project and spent $7.9 million for the remaining space across from Houston's convention center. The city also created the Houston Downtown Park Corp., in which it will contribute $750,000 each year for maintenance of the park, according to Discovery Green's Web site.

In January, the Houston Chronicle reported that White had written an endorsement, on city letterhead, promoting Finger's One Park Place development. In response, White told the newspaper the letter was part of an agreement with Finger to promote the 37-story building. Finger, a White campaign contributor, said the letter was unsolicited.

It is unclear from the AG's ruling what information White must release regarding the project, but the AG's office determined White may exclude the personal contact information or other matters related to his private social affairs, unrelated to his official role as mayor.

White initially refused Texas Watchdog's request more than two months ago saying he did not want to reveal personal contact information of those with whom he met last year. The mayor declined last week when Texas Watchdog asked his office to release portions of his calendar he agreed were public.

Other high-level officials release calendars

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have all released their calendars, which are being reviewed by Texas Watchdog. (Check back at www.texaswatchdog.org for those documents.) The officials blacked out some information on the calendars which they apparently believed was not subject to public records law.

White had released his calendar several years ago but this time sought a formal legal ruling so he could redact the third-party contact information, a spokesman for the mayor said.

"This has to deal with privacy issues related to people who may be on the schedule," Pat Trahan, White's spokesman, said last week. "We have gone through this process before."

White had been advised by a city attorney not to release portions of the calendar until a ruling had been issued.

That stance, however, skirts Texas law regarding swift disclosure of public information, an attorney who is an expert on public records issues said.

Aleshire

"He shouldn't withhold the whole thing," said Austin attorney Bill Aleshire, of The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. "That's not consistent with the statute. (Officials are) required to release any information they don't intend to ask the attorney general to withhold."

White, who has served as Houston's mayor for five years, is running for a U.S. Senate seat.

Contact Rosanna Ruiz at news@texaswatchdog.org or 713-980-9777.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, join our groups on MySpace and ning, follow us on Twitter, fan us on Digg, join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feed in your newsreader. We're also on NewsVine, tumblr, Ning, FriendFeed and YouTube.
Comments
Be the first to post a comment.
Video
KTRK: On Big Screens for Billionaires, Comptroller Susan Combs Silent
Related Blogs and Media
Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: Against the Grain 3605 Del Monte Dr. [HAR] … Read...
Update:13 hours 7 min
Swamplot
Foot Guy Back to Harassing Houston’s Female Real Estate Agents, Warns HAR The still-anonymous guy known for calling female real estate agents to get them to talk to him about their feet is back at it, a message...
Update:13 hours 53 min
Swamplot
And Now, an Illustrated Series of Detailed Rants About McMansions What puts the Mc- in McMansion? McMansion Hell hit the Internets recently hoping to answer that question, bringing along slews of...
Update:15 hours 22 min
Swamplot
RRC: Your Drinking Water Probably Hasn’t Been Poisoned by Those Wells We Weren’t Tracking Meanwhile, in Austin: The Texas Rail Road Commission is hiring a geologist to look through the 10,000-or-so permits for oilfield...
Update:17 hours 7 min
Swamplot
Fertitta’s $20 Million UH Donation To Bump Hofheinz from Pavilion to Plaza Status The $20-million basketball stadium donation previously rumored to be on its way from Landry’s owner and UH board of regents...
Update:18 hours 22 min
Swamplot
It's Time For School Choice In Texas. We hear it often. "It's time for school choice in Texas." And then little or nothing happens on the issue. But, lately, it feels......
Update:18 hours 46 min
WILLisms
Swamplot Sponsor: This 4-Bedroom, 2-Story Bellaire Home Today’s Sponsor of the Day is the 4-bedroom home at 847 Jaquet Dr. in Bellaire. Thanks for supporting Swamplot! The photo at the...
Update:19 hours 7 min
Swamplot
DOJ should intervene in Harris Co. bail litigation, and other brief notes Here's a quick roundup of items which merit Grits readers attention even if they haven't made it into independent posts:The Houston...
Update:19 hours 24 min
Grits for Breakfast
Planned 10-Week Dowling St. Name Change Kicks Off Tomorrow Houston Planning Commission chief of staff Brian Crimmins announced yesterday that tomorrow will be the day a proposed name change of...
Update:20 hours 7 min
Swamplot
VIDEO: Cringe TV News Blooper Compilation 1 ...
Update:20 hours 9 min
Mike McGuff
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 4 years 2 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 4 years 2 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 4 years 2 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 4 years 2 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 4 years 2 months
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services" http://t.co/TOLgRVak
TxDOT | 4 years 2 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 4 years 2 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 4 years 2 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
© 2016 TEXAS WATCHDOG and USELABS. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement