in Houston, Texas
Fort Worth assistant city attorney resigns after bungling hundreds of requests for public information
Monday, May 16, 2011, 02:43PM CST
By Steve Miller
fortworth

An assistant city attorney in Fort Worth responsible for responding to public information requests has resigned after it was discovered he was unduly delaying release of information.

This column in Saturday’s Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that C. Patrick Phillips resigned last month after his boss discovered he had botched more than 300 requests for public information.

 

From the piece:

Since 2008, Phillips had not properly handled 327 requests, the city reported later. For the vast majority of those, Phillips had either missed the deadline for asking the Texas attorney general to exempt the information or failed to release information as the AG's office had ordered.

Star-Telegram's watchdog columnist Dave Lieber has been putting the pressure on Fort Worth, shining a light on the city's practice of delaying the release of information by appealing records requests to the Attorney General. In Texas, if a government agency has questions about whether a record is open, the agency may ask the AG's office to decide the matter. In practice, the appeals process for some governments becomes a knee-jerk reaction.

 

In Fort Worth, it got bad enough that Lieber filed a complaint with the state AG’s office, and even after that, it took almost two months for the city to comply with state law.

 

Lieber clarified the purpose of the appeals process:

The attorney general's office referred me to its open-records decision No. 684, dated Dec. 14, 2009, which offers a guide to governments about when they should seek its rulings.

 

The decision explains that it "is intended to encourage the prompt release of requested public information and increase the efficiency of the PIA [Public Information Act] review process by clearly identifying certain types of information that governmental bodies may withhold without the delay of requesting an attorney general decision."

***

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


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