in Houston, Texas
Texas windstorm agency must release billing records, correspondence, says Attorney General
Wednesday, Jan 11, 2012, 03:21PM CST
By Steve Miller
ike

The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association must surrender a number of documents it has battled for months to withhold, the state Attorney General’s office has ruled.

Texas Watchdog requested on Oct. 5 details of travel for interim general manager John Polak, legal bills from Austin lawyer Burnie Burner, a list of employees terminated by TWIA between specified dates, and certain letters and other communication between TWIA and the Texas Department of Insurance, which took over the association in February.

The information received did not fully comply with the request; the detailed legal invoices sought were not provided, which would tell the public exactly what Burner, who was retained under murky circumstances, was doing.

“We’re not mind readers,” TWIA counsel Susan Banowsky replied when questioned about the omission of these records.

In an effort to lend clarity, Watchdog submitted a second request Oct. 19 for some of the same information, this time asking also for records regarding Banowsky’s work: How much was TWIA, and by extension the insured property owners, shelling out to contest the public’s inquiries into its dealings?

The records that were provided told this story. Banowsky is paid $545 an hour for her work processing open records requests and frequently writing legal appeals seeking to withhold documents.

The association appealed the disclosure of a number of other records asked for in both requests. This back-and-forth is what's known as a request for an open records letter ruling.

TWIA sought to withhold information under the basic of state government legal passages, including the catch-all confidential statute and one relating to litigation, 552.101 and 552.103.

It also cited 552.111 relating to interagency memos, which, given the upheaval and, hopefully, repair being done at the agency, would certainly be of compelling public interest. For parts of the other information sought, TWIA cited lawyer-client privilege and attorney work product privilege.

The AG's office rebuffed most of those arguments.

At numerous points in the letter ruling, the AG's office notes that TWIA counsel has “failed to demonstrate” assertions made regarding records.

“Some of the information you have marked does not indicate it was actually communicated,” the ruling says, regarding some documents that were claimed to be exempt because they were between the association and the association's outside legal counsel.

“You have failed to identify some of the parties to the communications in the submitted attorney fee bills,” the ruling also states.

At one point, the association sought to withhold communications with TDI and information shared with TDI regardings its examination and oversight of TWIA under chapter 401 of the state insurance code.

“The present request is for information held by the association, not the department,” the ruling states. "The association has not explained how or why section 401.058 would be applicable to information in its possession.”

The association was allowed to withhold some information relating to a pending lawsuit against a former TWIA employee, Bill Tassin, who left in July after working there for 10 months.

“We note, however, once the information at issue has been obtained by all parties to the anticipated litigation through discovery or otherwise, no … interest exists with respect to the information," the AG writes. "Thus, any information at issue that has either been obtained from or provided to all opposing parties in the anticipated litigation is not excepted from (disclosure).”

TWIA has demonstrated a tenuous relationship with the state’s transparency laws, both the open meetings and open records provisions.

Much of the trouble that led to the state takeover began with an e-mail regarding the firing of two employees, Reggie Warren and Bill Knarr. "Resigned" is how TWIA put it. We knew otherwise, and the situation was much more involved as it turned out. Read our story about that by clicking here.
 

We look forward to receiving the records that the AG has deemed public and relaying them to readers here.
***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of Hurricane Ike from NASA.
  • 1
Video
KTRK: On Big Screens for Billionaires, Comptroller Susan Combs Silent
Related Blogs and Media
Richmond Home Listing Photo of the Day: Leading Roles 7218 Foster Island Dr. [HAR] … Read...
Update:3 hours 34 min
Swamplot
And the good times rolled: 17 donors gave three-quarters of Dems’ convention money The Democratic committee organizing the party’s national convention raised $4 million more than its Republican equivalent. (AP...
Update:4 hours 24 min
Open Secrets
Brick-Faced Polk St. Warehouse Marketers Propose Increased Transparency, Wholesale Changes A construction fence has gone up around the former King’s Wholesale building in East Downtown, a reader tells Swamplot. The...
Update:5 hours 4 min
Swamplot
Abandon fatalism, embrace accountability on police shootings The Dallas Morning News editorial board has struggled of late to discern a viable path forward in the aftermath of the shooting deaths of...
Update:5 hours 28 min
Grits for Breakfast
VIDEO: New KHOU 11 sports anchor Jason Bristol gets big send-off New KHOU 11 sports anchor Jason Bristol gets Texas sized tribute from WHP Harrisburg, PA In early September, I blogged that KHOU 11 had...
Update:6 hours 21 min
Mike McGuff
Comment of the Day: Save-The-Dome Saga’s Parking Garage Ending Leaves Room for a Sequel “I think people are missing the larger view here. Of course there is plenty of current surface parking — but putting parking...
Update:7 hours 4 min
Swamplot
Buffalo Bayou Boat Launch at Woodway Dr. Accidentally Shaved Bare Again The folks at Save Buffalo Bayou send over some before-and-after photos of the Memorial Park boat launch and companion drainage structure...
Update:7 hours 35 min
Swamplot
SEPTEMBER 28 / The Wall Street Journal has gone into the . . . . . . college-ranking bidness. The newspaper's list is worth a look because . . . . . . it "pulls back from the traditional emphasis on...
Update:8 hours 54 min
Unca Darrell
KHOU 11 building new set; operating from temporary studio While a new set is being built, KHOU 11's newscasts are now temporarily being done from 'Great Day Houston's' set KHOU 11 is getting a...
Update:9 hours 10 min
Mike McGuff
HISD Tossing Around a Bellaire HS Rebuild on the Chevron Campus Up the Street On Monday some HISD folks pitched the idea of buying Chevron’s soon-to-be-empty land on Fournace Place to a committee overseeing...
Update:9 hours 35 min
Swamplot
Midway’s Latest Plans for the KBR Site; Big Turnout for the Public Housing Vouchers Waiting List Midway’s Project on Former KBR Site in the East End To Be Called East River [Houston Chronicle; previous on Swamplot] Post...
Update:12 hours 4 min
Swamplot
Daily Demolition Report: Varsity Blues Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday. We may...
Update:12 hours 34 min
Swamplot
College Football: The Week 5 er...FIVE. Found out earlier this week that I had an inner ear infection. This is why I've felt like I've had vertigo and an upset stomach that's been...
Update:13 hours 9 min
Cory Crow
It's Time For School Choice In Texas! VIDEO: Part 1 of 3. Texas has some of the best public schools in the country. Some of the highest graduation rates in America. Some of the...
Update:13 hours 34 min
WILLisms
Houston Home Listing Photo of the Day: The Vision Quester 30B Hackberry Ln. [HAR] … Read...
Update:1 day 2 hours
Swamplot
Comment of the Day: Any New Naming Episodes Welcome Amid the Endless East Houston Reruns “The news calls everything between Downtown and Baytown ‘East Houston’ — so when West U is called ‘Southwest...
Update:1 day 3 hours
Swamplot
Gaping holes, confusion mar FCC’s data on political ad buys An ad sponsored by the NRA-ILA attacking Indiana Senate candidate Evan Bayh (D). Four years after it began requiring TV stations to upload...
Update:1 day 4 hours
Open Secrets
Fleet of Taco Trucks Now Registering People To Vote on 8 Houston Corners Here’s the map posted by Houstonia’s Katharine Shilcutt this morning showing the usual haunts of 8 taco trucks now also...
Update:1 day 5 hours
Swamplot
Swamplot Sponsor: This 5-Bedroom, 5-Bath Home in West U Swamplot is brought to you today by the 5-bedroom, 5-bath house for sale or lease at 6337 Mercer St. in West University Place. Thanks...
Update:1 day 8 hours
Swamplot
Mayra Moreno engaged #abc13 #ktrk KTRK abc13 weekend morning anchor Mayra Moreno gets engaged After Monday's terrible shooting incident, let's try to celebrate the...
Update:1 day 8 hours
Mike McGuff
County Approves First $10.5 Million for Astrodome Basement Parking Garage Plan The Harris County commissioner’s court voted this morning to approve the design phase of that plan to fill in the Astrodome’s...
Update:1 day 9 hours
Swamplot
New Heights El Rey Taqueria Location Now Rising Along North Loop Burger King’s Western Border The crown sigil of El Rey Cuban & Mexican Cuisine has been sighted by a reader along the south side of the North Loop, just west of...
Update:1 day 9 hours
Swamplot
Inside the Astrodome; The Effects of the Oil Downturn Beyond Houston A Breakdown of What $105M Would Buy in the Proposed Astrodome Parking Garage Redo [Houston Chronicle; previously on...
Update:1 day 12 hours
Swamplot
Daily Demolition Report: Showroom Shutdown Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday. You can pick...
Update:1 day 12 hours
Swamplot
SEPTEMBER 27 / Unca D's response to . . . . . . last night's presidential debate: God, help us! Unca...
Update:1 day 12 hours
Unca Darrell
Spring Home Listing Photo of the Day: When the Dust Settles 8207 Landau Park [HAR] … Read...
Update:2 days 2 hours
Swamplot
Online Gun Enthusiasts Attack Pi Pizza’s New Heights Blvd. Locale, Sales Blow Up The newly opened stationary location of former food truck Pi Pizza got a huge boost in business this weekend after pro-gun-carry groups...
Update:2 days 3 hours
Swamplot
Russian-born oil magnate gives big to Trump Victory Vladimir Putin (r) shakes hands with Simon Grigorievich Kukes in 2000 at the signing of an agreement between Tyumen Oil, which Kukes then...
Update:2 days 4 hours
Open Secrets
Comment of the Day: The Price of Savoring that Mouthwatering Houston Industrial Flavor “I always found that Galveston Bay oysters had a slight metallic tinge to them (as compared to oysters from Matagorda or San Antonio...
Update:2 days 5 hours
Swamplot
Look for Philosophy and Ideology When Watching the Debates One of the two candidates on the stage tonight will be the next President. When watching them debate tonight remember with the ideological...
Update:2 days 6 hours
Big Jolly Politics
Former Adult Modeling Business next to Model Children’s Playhouse Tagged by City A reader wonders why the house above at 2709 Bagby St. is just now getting a yellow note from city inspectors, who doled out an orange...
Update:2 days 6 hours
Swamplot
KTRK abc13 photographer Jaime Zamora risked life during Houston shooting incident KTRK abc13 photographer Jaime Zamora was first on the scene during the Houston shooting, and continued delivering TV viewers excellent...
Update:2 days 8 hours
Mike McGuff
Swamplot Sponsor: This New Custom Home in Bunker Hill Village from Jamestown Estate Homes Our thanks go to Jamestown Estate Homes, offering the new home at 11926 Broken Bough Dr. in the Memorial Shadows neighborhood of Bunker...
Update:2 days 8 hours
Swamplot
College Football: Goodbye Hat. (And other early season thoughts) Knowing what we think we know about the goings-on in Baton Rogue the firing of Les Miles after a no-good, very bad loss to an Auburn team...
Update:2 days 9 hours
Cory Crow
KTMD launches 'Noticiero Telemundo Houston' at 4pm today Paulina Sodi and Crystal Ayala will co-anchor new half-hour weekday newscast “Noticiero Telemundo Houston” at 4 PM HOUSTON, TX –...
Update:2 days 9 hours
Mike McGuff
West U Shelter-In-Place Order Just Lifted Following This Morning’s ‘Southwest Houston’ Shooting The city has just cancelled stay-put orders for the folks in a zone straddling the borders of West University and the Montclair and...
Update:2 days 9 hours
Swamplot
Astrodome Parking Plan Vote This Week; A Flood of Flood Hazard Reclassifications Harris County Commissioner’s Court To Vote on Proposed Astrodome Parking Plan This Tuesday [Houston Chronicle; previously on...
Update:2 days 12 hours
Swamplot
Daily Demolition Report: Graphic Ending Swamplot’s Daily Demolition Report lists buildings that received City of Houston demolition permits the previous weekday. Don’t...
Update:2 days 12 hours
Swamplot
Okie voters will set tone for red-state drug-war legislation For mostly historical, family reasons (both sides of my family are from the Texas Panhandle, with ties to Oklahoma), Grits has always...
Update:2 days 13 hours
Grits for Breakfast
State Rep candidate, in email, shows scorn for Republican Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson I suppose it’s not much of a shock to her supporters but Texas House District 150 Republican candidate Valoree Swanson is no fan of...
Update:4 days 4 hours
Big Jolly Politics
Tweets
Karen Townsend | 4 years 3 months
"Patrick F. Kennedy is a career foreign service officer" - http://t.co/GOrCe0IS
Peter Corbett ✈ | 4 years 3 months
I'm at McCarran International Airport (LAS) w/ @almacy http://t.co/KvmId07i
KERA Public Media | 4 years 3 months
TONIGHT at 7pm on KERA TV: Presidential Debate: Learn more at PBS NewsHour. http://t.co/Z9kYdun8
PBS MediaShift | 4 years 3 months
Tech Snafus Make Bill O'Reilly/Jon Stewart 'Rumble' More of a Stumble http://t.co/4OfeBlrG (@kegill | @pbsmediashift) #rumble2012
Will Sullivan | 4 years 3 months
Great addition, been burned too much by bad subs. "Google Play Announces Free Trials For In-App Subscription Services" http://t.co/TOLgRVak
TxDOT | 4 years 3 months
I-35W/North Tarrant Express #constantcontact http://t.co/QDzrQumu
keyetv | 4 years 3 months
Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
Karen Townsend | 4 years 3 months
Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
San Antonio Current | 4 years 3 months
Go ahead, chalk it up http://t.co/YMWpC5wM #satx #chalkitup
Caller.com | 4 years 3 months
Scanner: Bathroom on fire in 600 block of Virginia, CC fire dept. on the way
Ballotpedia | 4 years 3 months
Does your state offer early voting? Do you qualify? Find out! #election2012 http://t.co/eodxBYVD
Dallas Morning News | 4 years 3 months
Why a Dallas-area cycling coach believed Lance Armstrong was drug-free (video) http://t.co/gURdYkj1
Caller.com | 4 years 3 months
Dozens of illegal waste dumpers sentenced in Jim Wells Co.; others on the run: http://t.co/NgerCdsQ
Karen Townsend | 4 years 3 months
Consistently impressed w/raullabrador when I listen to him in Congressional hearings. #Libya
Cory Crow | 4 years 3 months
Diigo: United raises fares by up to $10 per round trip - Business - http://t.co/kWY8gwPV http://t.co/bw25JP5R
News 4 WOAI | 4 years 3 months
If you see news in or around San Antonio 'SEND IT' to @NEWS4WOAI here: http://t.co/uMqbMXQv OR email us at: NEWSDESK@WOAITV.COM
swamplot | 4 years 3 months
Mining Houston Garbage for Recycling and Compost Gold http://t.co/HMMBArMX
swamplot | 4 years 3 months
Daily Demolition Report: Tulane Highway http://t.co/JXmkSx11
KFDA NewsChannel10 | 4 years 3 months
Obama and Romney: Where they stand on the issues http://t.co/y3VrPfkM
Williamson County | 4 years 3 months
Mental Health Awareness Week FREE Webinar:"Understanding Depression-How to Help You or a Loved One" Thurs,Oct 11@1pm-https://t.co/YUWi19WY
© 2016 TEXAS WATCHDOG and USELABS. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use and Privacy Statement