Friday, February 11, 2011 by Jo Clifton

County attorney seeking old Council calendars as well as new ones

City Clerk Shirley Gentry said Thursday the city has 80 boxes of records from the offices of former Mayor Will Wynn and former Council Member Brewster McCracken. Somewhere within those 80 boxes there might be records County Attorney David Escamilla is seeking in his quest to determine whether current Council members have violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.

 

Escamilla made an open records request last week, asking Gentry – as  custodian of the city’s records – to provide legal opinions related to the Open Meetings Act, calendars for Wynn from 2000-2009 and calendars for McCracken from 2003-2009, as well as explanations of policies for conducting one on one and two on one meetings. He made similar requests to current Council Members and City Manager Marc Ott.

 

Escamilla is investigating allegations made by local activist Brian Rodgers that the Council has violated the Open Meetings Act by meeting with one another in less than a quorum to discuss city business. In Fact Daily has submitted an open records request for Rodgers’ complaint. Escamilla has indicated that he is likely to deny the request.

 

Gentry said she has not looked inside the boxes, which are stored off-site with Iron Mountain, a third-party vendor that provides humidity and heat controlled space for such records.

 

Gentry said 25 of the boxes belonged to McCracken and the rest to Wynn. A former aide to Wynn told In Fact Daily that his boss kept only electronic calendars. McCracken also said he kept his calendars electronically.

 

According to Gentry, the city keeps electronic calendars for one year after the date on the calendar. Therefore, she expects any calendars from 2009 or before have been destroyed. It is possible there are other items in the boxes which Escamilla is seeking, such as emails, briefing papers, memoranda and correspondence relating to meetings of late February, March, April May and June of 2009. However, Gentry said, “Even if I had the staff (to look through the boxes) I don’t know that we would know what we were looking for.”

 

She said she has asked for guidance from the city’s Law Department.

 

McCracken said during his one on one meetings with other Council Members, he got to know his colleagues and discussed “initiatives we were working on.” He said that was especially helpful on big changes to city rules like the commercial design ordinance. “Nobody wants to be surprised by some kind of major deal,” he said.

 

McCracken, who ran against Mayor Lee Leffingwell when both were members of the Council, said he believes that by losing the 2009 election he got the better deal—since he is no longer on the Council. He currently serves as Executive Director of the Pecan Street Project.

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