Show us the money, let us see how tax dollars are spent

Caller Times  |Sept. 6, 2018

Kelley Shannon Sunshine

(Photo: Kelley Shannon, Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas)

The Highlights:

  • We Texans have a right to know how our taxpayer dollars are spent.
  • Our elected public officials represent us. They manage and spend our tax money. But we, the people, get to decide whether they are doing it well.
  • To do that, we need light shining on the workings of our government. But that essential element of our democracy is in jeopardy in Texas.
  • Now, in response, more than a dozen diverse organizations have come together to form the nonpartisan Texas Sunshine Coalition to ensure our government doesn’t operate in the dark.

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Mayor used personal email for arena talks
El Paso Inc | July 30, 2018

The Highlights:

  • El Paso Mayor, Dee Margo appears to have sidestepped public information laws during negotiations with arena opponents earlier this year. 
  • El Paso Inc. found that at least seven emails sent and received by the mayor were not forwarded to his official city account. 
  • The city should have produced those emails in response to a public information request, but they were missing.

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Public officials often choose what to release to public
ABC 13 Eyewitness News | July 23, 2018

The Highlights: 

  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s former press secretary Darian Ward may be facing criminal charges after withholding information from journalists.
  • Many Houston journalists have lamented about government officials withholding information. 
  • Ward was asked to hand over any work-related emails she had. Officials found out that she withheld nearly 5,000 important emails. 

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Mayor Turner’s former press secretary indicted for withholding public records
The Houston Chronicle July 19, 2018

The Highlights:

  • Houston mayor Sylvester Turner’s former press secretary, Darian Ward, has been indicted by a grand jury this week.
  • Ward failed to supply hundreds of emails to a journalist, violating the Freedom of Information Act.
  • Ward resigned from her position in late January following her suspension for withholding emails. 

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AG office tells Victoria school district to superintendent search details 
Victoria Advocate July 13, 2018

news story

The Highlights:

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State audit slams Alamo oversight, appears similar to ‘doctored’ draft
Austin-American Statesman, May 31, 2018

The Highlights:

  • The General Land Office released an internal audit critical of its management of the Alamo
  • The audit’s conclusions are consistent with a draft audit the Statesman reported on in February.
  • Land Commissioner George P. Bush had said that draft audit had been “doctored.”

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Government transparency advocates prep for fight over public information                 Corpus Christi Caller-Times, May 18, 2018

The Highlights:

  • As the 2019 Texas Legislative session approaches, open government advocates are preparing to challenge court decisions that have restricted government information.
  • A forum hosted by Rep Todd Hunter, was held on May 17, 2018, to discuss the need for greater government transparency.

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Why Austin bomber Mark Conditt’s confession may be kept secret — forever
Austin American-Statesman, April 6, 2018

Hours after the Austin bomber killed himself as police closed in, investigators revealed that the man responsible for a series of attacks that killed two and injured five had left behind a 28-minute recorded confession.

Reporters asked interim Police Chief Brian Manley if police planned to release the audio to the public, who had suffered through nearly three weeks of terror caused by Mark Conditt’s crimes.

“No, not at this point,” Manley said.

They may never.

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Access Denied, The Texas Observer, April 2, 2018

By most measures, McAllen’s 2015 Christmas parade and concert was a wild success. Telenovela stars, radio personalities and local dignitaries waved to cheering crowds from an impressive line of lighted floats that glided through the streets of this city of 142,000 in the Rio Grande Valley. Fourteen marching bands strutted their stuff. Towering over the festivities were larger-than-life balloons: Santa Claus, the Gingerbread Man and Angry Birds characters. MORE

District seeks AG ruling on releasing information on school board candidates     March 14, 2016

The Highlights

  • A change in the Public Information Act which rules birth dates are protected under common-law privacy is too vague.
  • The change in the PIA is causing in the Texas Election Code and the Texas Government code to conflict.
  • Because of this, citizens of Waxahachie cannot get access to a school board candidate’s application without going through the office of the Attorney General.  


TPPF Forum: A conversation on Texas’ Public Information Act

Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, Laura Prather


During ‘Sunshine Month,’ put spotlight on government accountability

By Kelley Shannon
Shining light on government to hold it accountable is hardly a new idea. In fact, Texas was a national leader in this realm for more than 40 years.

Sadly, the flow of public information in this huge state is slipping from the sunshine into the shadows. MORE

Important Stories

Texas Press Messenger: Sunshine Coalition forms to promote open government in Texas, April 2018

House Research Organization: Lawmakers may review effects of court ruling on public information law, 03/21/18

WOAI/News4SA: Court ruling preventing public from seeing how taxpayer money is spent, 03/19/18

Austin American-Statesman: Texas open-government advocates look to 2019 to improve transparency, 03/17/18

Texas Tribune: A cloudy day for sunshine laws in Texas, 02/7/18

San Antonio Express-News: Alamo transparency, 12/5/17

Texas Monitor: Secrecy, transparency problems beset Bush, Alamo ‘partners’, 12/4/17

Austin American-Statesman: Though late, council makes right decision not to hide names from public, 11/10/17

CBS 4: Exclusive: Agua Special Utility District approved secret severance payments worth $489,000, 11/3/17

Austin American-Statesman: Austin vs. Watauga? City claims competition to keep candidates secret, 10/27/17

San Antonio Express-News:Form special committee on public records, 10/22/17

WFAA: Judge orders lower temperature in sweltering prison unit, 07/19/17

Houston Chronicle: Closed records, 06/1/17

Austin American-Statesman: Parents of teen who died in police custody testify for change in law, 04/25/17

News4 SA: Dental board refers out criminal investigations, 03/14/17

KXAN:, 01/8/17

Houston Press: For A Price, You Can Get Behind the Closed Doors of Fort Bend Business, 10/11/16

Texas High Court Carves “Monstrous Loophole” for Government Secrets 8/5/16