in Houston, Texas
Bexar County commissioner presents legal arguments challenging records request for emails
Monday, Apr 02, 2012, 01:57PM CST
By Steve Miller
phone

Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson has presented his initial legal argument in a fight to keep emails from his personal account private, even though he acknowledges he was discussing public business through those emails.

The arguments Thursday in a Travis County District Court is the first of what could be a series of legal standoffs to define a portion of the state’s Public Information Act.

Adkisson’s attorney George Hyde said the court needs to determine the law rather than a ruling by the state Attorney General’s office that ordered the release of the emails in 2010.

“What the public information act states is not what the attorney general opined,” Hyde said, according to the San Antonio Express-News, which made the original request for records. The information was regarding a controversial toll road and the commissioner’s communications with Terri Hall, a local anti-toll road advocate. The news outlet has still not received the records.

Adkisson has relied on his own read of the law from the start: “I'm not a government body. I cannot ‘transact business with Terri Hall,'” the Express-News quotes the commissioner as saying.

Adkisson also outlined his views on public records in a July 2010 interview with Texas Watchdog.

An attorney for Hearst Corporation, representing the Express-News, argued that county policy alone determines the private emails to be public.

The story notes county policy states, “No official or employee of this office has, by virtue of his or her position, any personal or property right to such records even though he or she may have developed or compiled them.”

The Hearst lawyer, Ravi Sitwala, attacked Adkisson's argument, saying it would mean that government officials could take home documents, which would become inaccessible under the Public Informatio Act because they were not controlled by the government entity that had originally housed them.

The case is being watched by other government entities, including Texasisd.com, a site for Texas school officials. Officials in the state have used private emails for public business as a way to shield the communications. Houston City Councilman Mike Sullivan was suspected of doing so last year.

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

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Photo of phone by flickr user ilamont.com, used via a Creative Commons license.

Comments
parth vasa
Tuesday, 11/06/2012 - 07:21AM

Tommy Addison is perfectly right in keeping his personal emails private, I wonder why anyone would release such information.. Considering private lives of attorneys here to my knowledge. my family aquaintances have worse things on their history- actually.derogatory/ Were I to release the Hearst attorney's private info, it would be sick.

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