Bexar County commissioner’s emails about public business sent on private account must be released, district court finds

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A Bexar County commissioner must release emails from his private account that involve public business, state district Judge Scott Jenkins ruled Thursday.

Commissioner Tommy Adkisson challenged an element of the state’s open records law when he refused to surrender the emails to the San Antonio Express-News two years ago.

Adkisson maintained that emails between himself and a citizen who was embroiled in the protest of a proposed toll road structure were not public.

In an interview with Texas Watchdog in 2010, Adkisson explained that his private emails were not public record:

We all need mentors. We all need people who can sharpen us up about different things.

I’d like to have the benefit of a person with whom I am not transacting official business with to tell me, ‘Tommy, if you do that and you are the stupidest son of a gun I’ve ever seen.’ I’d like to have some flexibility to say, ‘What do you think about this?’ I can’t do that if every time I turn around someone can ask for all my emails.

If they are going to strip away the ability of public officials to have candid conversations with selected [people] who are not public officials, then the caliber and quality of the work product is going to go down. Lots of business does not get done over the Internet, but it helps me to write things down.

Anyone who says this business of private emails is settled law has not been looking at national case law. It’s in varying states, and it is anything but settled.

Adkisson said he will appeal the decision.

Jenkins has ruled in favor of open records advocates in the past. In 2008, Jenkins ordered the release of travel records of the protective detail of Gov. Rick Perry.

The Texas Supreme Court overturned his ruling and send it back to Jenkins last year. Legislation passed last session now allows the information to be withheld until at least next year.

Jenkins in 2010 ruled that the Greater Houston Partnership is a public entity and must release its check register. That case is pending appeal.

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

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