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Reporters sue state over hidden records

Monday, November 25, 2019 by Jo Clifton

The Texas Inaugural Committee, a state agency subject to the Texas Public Information Act, took in $5.3 million to throw parties for Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, according to information reported by The Texas Tribune. The publication also reported that the committee collected so much money, considerably more than Rick Perry or any of Abbott’s other predecessors, that after having paid for the parties they still had $800,000 left over. The committee evidently gave that money to charities, but refused to provide information on which charities received the money. In trying to find records about how the money was spent, Tribune reporters Jay Root and Shannon Najmabadi faced an exceptional array of roadblocks. As they reported, the Texas secretary of state attempted to dissolve the inaugural committee while official requests for information were pending and after the reporters had filed suit to obtain those records. Neither the secretary of state’s spokesman nor the executive director of the inaugural committee, nor the attorney handling the matter for the Attorney General’s Office, responded to the Austin Monitor‘s request for comment. Bill Aleshire, attorney for the reporters, said the case would be a test of whether the state can lawfully conceal public information by attempting to dissolve a state agency. “This is probably one of the first tests to see if SB 944” – a law that went into effect Sept. 1 – “actually helps us to avoid having records hidden or destroyed,” he said. That law speaks specifically to preservation of information by governmental bodies.

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