Records Retention

SOS v Daugherty Pending Decision

 SOS v Daugherty Pending Decision

Travis County seeks dismissal of lawsuit against
county commissioner, SOS wants more records

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2015
Posted Tuesday July 21, 2015 12:58pm
Updated Tuesday, July 21, 2015 5:03pm (to include a link to the SOS Alliance’s original petition)

In an ongoing battle over whether State Highway 45 Southwest will be built over the environmentally sensitive Barton Springs portion of the Edward Aquifer, the Save Our Springs Alliance is waging a two-pronged attack, through both a civil lawsuit and a criminal complaint, on Travis County Precinct 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, the leading proponent of the project.

Both actions claim that Daugherty violated the Texas Public Information Act, which provides both civil and criminal penalties for violations.

Stephen YelonoskyThe criminal case is being held in abeyance until the lawsuit is resolved. To that end, a nearly three-hour hearing was held July 13 before Judge Stephen Yelenosky of the 345th Judicial District Court.

Tony Nelson and Gerald DaughertyAssistant County Attorney Tony Nelson, who represents Daugherty, contends the lawsuit should be dismissed.

Nelson filed a Plea to Jurisdiction April 8, 2015, meant to refute claims made by SOS in the lawsuit and request dismissal because Daugherty and Travis County have exhausted all means of finding and providing the records that SOS requested in its public information request.

The SOS request was for any e-mails, memoranda, and attachments sent or received by Daugherty or his executive assistants that referenced the proposed SH45 SW that were sent or received between January 1, 2013, and the date of the request, May 10, 2013. The request covered the beginning months of Daugherty’s current term in office.

Issues before the court

Records Management Training Lacking

Posted Wednesday, April 20, 2011 6:12pm
Council Staff Training Lapsed
From 2007 Until Lawsuit Filed

Only One Current Staff Member Had
Taken Training, City Records Show

Investigative Report by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2011

The bad news is that the staff of the mayor and council members had not taken any training in managing local government records in many years.There are no state or local laws that make such training mandatory.

The good news is these employees started taking this training soon after The Austin Bulldog filed a lawsuit against the mayor, council members, and City of Austin over failures to comply with the Texas Public Information Act, Government Code Chapter 552.

The Austin Bulldog’s April 6 report detailed deficiencies in how council members and their staff have failed to collect, assemble, and maintain local government records as required by the Local Government Records Act and the city’s Local Government Records Control Schedules. The city also permitted every city official and employee to conduct public business by creating or receiving local government records via e-mail and to keep them secret by using personal e-mail accounts.

These recordkeeping deficiencies make it virtually impossible for city officials to respond in a complete and timely manner to requests filed by citizens and journalists under the Texas Public Information Act.

As reported by The Austin Bulldog April 15, the City Council has adopted a new policy to require council members and the officials they appoint to use city e-mail addresses as the primary means of communicating via e-mail. When personal e-mail accounts are used for city business the policy requires prompt forwarding to a city account.

The council directed the city manager and city clerk to develop similar policies for other city employees and members of sovereign boards and commissions.

Dearth of records management training


City Council Records Retention Problems

Posted Wednesday April 6, 2011 9:03pm
City of Austin’s Records Retention Undermined
by Lack of Controls Over Deletion of E-mails

Missing Records Likely More
Important Than Gossipy Tidbits

Investigative Report by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2011

The Austin American-Statesman and some television reports had a field day serving up e-mail exchanges among the mayor and council members that reveal the proclivity of some officeholders to hold side discussions among themselves during council meetings in which they demeaned certain citizens and showed a lack of confidence in high-level employees, including the city manager, an assistant city manager and the fire chief.

This rush to dish the dirt out of the e-mails that have been released—in response to open records requests filed under the Texas Public Information Act, first by The Austin Bulldog and later the Statesman and other media—has been entertaining, in a sense, and has triggered profuse apologies from the offending officeholders. A heaping helping of humble pie has been served up and choked down.

What has not been reported is how these elected officials, and their staff members, may be failing to properly manage e-mails and other correspondence to make sure that local government records are collected, assembled, and maintained in accordance with the Local Government Records Act.

At present, the city permits every city official and employee to conduct public business by creating or receiving local government records via e-mail and to keep them secret by using personal e-mail accounts.

The city also permits every official and employee who uses a computer to choose—without review by anyone else—when to delete local government records in the form of e-mails created or received on the city’s computers. Once e-mails are deleted, the right of access to them through the Texas Public Information Act, Government Code Chapter 552, is soon permanently lost.

The city’s failure to comply with the Texas Public information Act and the Local Government Records Act was the basis for the lawsuit, The Austin Bulldog v. Mayor Lee Leffingwell, et al, as reported March 2. The city has until April 11 to file its initial reply to the pleadings.These shortcomings are also the basis for The Austin Bulldog's complaint filed with County Attorney David Escamilla,as reported March 23.

The city’s response to The Austin Bulldog’s open records requests for deleted e-mails indicate that some e-mails that should have been retained are being deleted.

Records retention basics

Aide’s Smoking Gun E-mail

Posted Tuesday, March 1, 2011 9:55pm
Smoking Gun E-mail Shows Council Aide
Advocated Evasion of Public Information Act

Provided Detailed Guide to Allow Chats with
Council Members on Dais But Leave No Trace

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2010

The Austin Bulldog has received copies of e-mails sent by Glen Coleman, policy aide to Council Member Randi Shade, that tells all the other council members’ executive assistants specifically how to disable the chat system’s ability to track the history of communications and sidestep the requirements of the Texas Public Information Act.

“In the heat of a council meeting, you may wish to communicate sensitive information that would not be appropriate for all of us to read in the (Austin American-) Statesman the next day,” Coleman stated in an e-mail at 9:22am July 8, 2009, addressed to all council executive assistants.

“For these situations, we use a chatting application called ‘Spark.’

“To set up Spark on your and your Council Member’s computers, please contact.... Once installed, be sure to disable the ‘chat history’ function.”

Coleman’s e-mail then informs the other aides how to disable Spark chat history—and delete all previous chat conversations—complete with screen shots and a step-by-step instructions.