in Houston, Texas
Downtown Amarillo development group must release records, e-mails: AG
Wednesday, Aug 11, 2010, 05:33PM CST
By Steve Miller

A curious situation has developed in Amarillo regarding the town’s nonprofit downtown development group. The group, Downtown Amarillo Inc., is reviewing an attorney general’s public records letter ruling that it must turn over some records. The ruling follows its appeal of a records request from a local newspaper, The Amarillo Independent.

And in this story by the Amarillo Globe-News, we learn that among the items requested by the Independent is a series of e-mails between Downtown Amarillo chief Melissa Dailey and the publisher of the Globe-News, Les Simpson, who heads the board of Downtown Amarillo. He also has a blog and a Twitter account.

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The Globe-News story includes a call to publisher Simpson – or did the reporter just take the elevator to the executive suites? – who refers the reporter to a statement from Downtown Amarillo.

Meanwhile, the Independent writes about its open records triumphIn filing the open records request, "I wanted to establish a general principal that when a city government essentially hires an organization to do a government function, even though that function might be done by a different corporation, it should be subject to Texas sunshine laws," said Independent publisher George Schwarz, a former Globe-News reporter.

 

Texas Watchdog has partnered with the Independent on stories about public salaries and politicians' financial disclosures.

 

Simpson, the publisher, speaks on behalf of Downtown Amarillo on occasion. Simpson did not return a call or an e-mail


Simpson has been on the board since Downtown Amarillo was created in October 2008, said Dailey, the group's executive director. The group filed for its tax-exempt status about six months ago. Downtown Amarillo received $201,000 in funding from the city of Amarillo in its current fiscal year ending Sept. 30, she said, and another $50,000 from a taxing zone and another $20,000 from Center City of Amarillo, a local nonprofit that exists primarily on public financing.

 

These taxpayer-funded development outfits often claim immunity to the open records act. Even Wikipedia has an entry on the issue, as does the IRS. In many cases, these groups are subject to open meetings laws, and, correspondingly, open records laws.


Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

Comments
Mary
Wednesday, 01/26/2011 - 10:48PM

So where are the agendas of their meetings and the minutes of the meetings?

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