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
JULY 24 / Little David, the shepherd boy, explains . . . . . . to an uncomprehending giant what is about to happen: David said to the Philistine, "You will come against me with sword and spear and...
Update:8 hours 56 sec
Unca Darrell
Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: Little Boxes 3018 Conway St. [HAR] … Read...
Update:1 day 16 hours
Swamplot
Former Montrose Berryhill Baja Grill Space To Reopen with New Peninsular Allegiances The strip-center position formerly held by Berryhill Baja Grill at the corner of Montrose Blvd. and Hawthorne St. is getting new signage...
Update:1 day 16 hours
Swamplot
Metro Might Never Need To Change a Station Name Again If It Just Changes 28 of Them Now In response to word from the Chronicle‘s Dug Begley this week that the Red Line’s Reliant Park light-rail stop might get its...
Update:1 day 17 hours
Swamplot
Chevron To Sell Old Bellaire Campus, All That New Land on Clay Rd. Nancy Sarnoff notes this afternoon that Chevron will be selling off that 103-acre Clay Rd. tract it bought in 2014, along with the...
Update:1 day 19 hours
Swamplot
Black Lives Matter well-positioned to win concessions on police, if ... Black Lives Matter is formally an organization and has a chapter here in Austin, but really #Blacklivesmatter is an amorphous, broad-based...
Update:1 day 20 hours
Grits for Breakfast
Swamplot Sponsor: Boulevard Realty’s White Linen Night Pre-Party at 1035 Harvard Today’s Swamplot sponsor is . . . a party! It’s the gathering Boulevard Realty is putting on before White Linen Night...
Update:1 day 21 hours
Swamplot
CenterPoint Energy Work To Cause Extended Outage of Dog Park on Westpark Dr. Update, 2:30 pm: Commissioner Steve Radack tells Swamplot that the dog park itself will also be closed while the parking area is...
Update:1 day 22 hours
Swamplot
For Roy Blunt, one staff salary makes up most of PAC spending Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) campaigning at Lauf Equipment Co. in Jefferson City, Mo. in March — at the same time Donald Trump was 130...
Update:1 day 22 hours
Open Secrets
JULY 22 / "I alone can fix it," sayeth . . . . . . Donald John Trump in his acceptance speech. In context, “No one knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix...
Update:1 day 23 hours
Unca Darrell
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 4 years 1 month
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 4 years 1 month
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 4 years 1 month
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 4 years 1 month
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 4 years 1 month
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 1 month
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 4 years 1 month
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 4 years 1 month
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