in Houston, Texas
After year of throwing roadblocks at El Paso Times, city of Socorro releases settlement with former city manager
Friday, Mar 16, 2012, 11:09AM CST
By Steve Miller
roadblock

It took a year and a state Attorney General’s ruling, but the city of Socorro has released a settlement with its former city manager to the El Paso Times.

The $91,000 agreement with former city manager Carol Garcia was ruled a public record by the AG’s office shortly after the March 2011 settlement as part of a wrongful termination suit by Garcia, the paper writes.

But the city still refused to release the document. The Times filed a complaint with the El Paso County District Attorney’s office, which ordered the release.

Socorro City Attorney Jerry Wallace initially cited attorney-client privilege in withholding the agreement. He then told the AG’s office that the city did not have a copy of the settlement. Next, Wallace tried to refer the Times to the Texas Municipal Liability Pool.

Times Editor Robert Moore said, "The city of Socorro should have made this settlement public almost a year ago. Texas' Public Information Act specifically states that lawsuit settlements involving governments are always public record. This sort of evasiveness in the face of a clear legal responsibility rightfully undermines public trust in Socorro's municipal government.”

Wallace has appealed a number of open records requests to the city and other government entities over the years. In the fall, he failed to file an appeal within the lawful timeframe, and the city was ordered to give up police records.

Garcia is now a project coordinator at the El Paso Collaborative for Community and Economic Development. Her bio lists her as the current city manager of Socorro.

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

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Photo of roadblock by flickr user xxxtoff, used via a Creative Commons license.

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