The state Attorney General has ruled that the University of Houston must turn over certain business records relating to the sale of Rice University’s radio station KTRU to U of H, including the amount paid to a third-party consultant.
In October, Texas Watchdog filed a request for public records that eventually yielded documentation of duplicity on the part of U of H regarding the $9.5 million KTRU sale. Other e-mails showed how public relations staffers bickered about how to present the sale of the station, correctly anticipating the small but formidable public outrage it elicited.
U of H asked the AG’s office for a ruling on some of the correspondence and payment information we requested.
The Jan. 7 ruling dictates that U of H can’t withhold communications with or payment to Public Radio Capital (PRC), a nonprofit consultancy that brokered the sale. The ruling did allow that some information being appealed by U of H met the standards for withholding, but much did not:
"We find the information we have marked consists of advice, opinions, and recommendations regarding a policymaking matter of the system that were communicated within the system and between the system and PRC. However, the remaining information consists of general administrative information that does not relate to policymaking or information that is purely factual in nature. Further, we note that a portion of the remaining information consists of communications with a consultant retained by Rice. We find that you have not established that the system shares a privity of interest or common deliberative process with this party. Thus, you have failed to demonstrate, and the information at issue does not reflect on its face, that the remaining information consists of advice, recommendations, or opinions that pertain to policymaking. Accordingly, the remaining information is not excepted from disclosure ... and it may not be withheld on that basis."
PRC sought to keep its payment information private, but the AG disagreed:
Upon review, we find PRC has failed to demonstrate that its payment information meets the definition of trade secret, nor has it established a trade secret claim for this information.
Texas Watchdog has also obtained audio of the U of H Board of Regents August meeting at which the purchase of KTRU was discussed. It appears that Rice never shopped the station and simply told U of H that it was moving KTRU online.
The sale of KTRU is pending FCC approval, with a public comment opposing the license transfer submitted by a local group, Friends of KTRU.
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or email@example.com.
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