Travis County

City staff failed to stop mayor from misusing city resources

City staff failed to prevent Mayor Steve Adler from making candidate endorsements that were aired live on a city-run television station last December, on the first day of early voting, even though he told them beforehand that that’s what he intended to do when he got in front of the cameras.

Second effort to find Central Health auditors

Lack of response caused Travis County to issue another solicitation In response to concerted pressure from groups alleging that Central Health lacked sufficient financial controls...

Commissioners order Central Health performance audit, again

This article was updated 12:21pm October 4, 2022, to reflect what the final order for a performance audit contains, and to replace the linked draft...

Bulldog’s Complaint Dismissed

Posted Friday, April 22, 2011 4:21pm
County Attorney’s Office ‘Cannot Determine’
City of Austin Committed Alleged Violations

Bulldog’s Complaint Was the First Presented
for Violation of Texas Pubic Information Act

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2011

The Travis County attorney’s office today issued a response to The Austin Bulldog’s complaint that alleged the City of Austin had violated the Texas Public Information Act by withholding public information.

The letter signed by James W. Collins, executive assistant Travis County attorney, states that the county attorney’s office “cannot determine that the violations alleged in your complaint were committed by the City of Austin.”

The letter states that this was a first complaint received by the Travis County Attorney’s office that was filed under Section 552.3215 of the Texas Public Information Act.

Attorney Bill Aleshire of Riggs Aleshire and Ray LP, who represented The Austin Bulldog in this matter, said, “This decision does not say the county attorney’s office exonerated the city, just that the county attorney’s office could not determine that the violations occurred as worded in the complaint.


Commissioners Responsive to Record Requests

Posted Monday, March 14, 2011 1:34pm
Commissioners Court Responsive to
Open Record Requests for E-mails

In Sharp Contrast to Resistance
by the City of Austin, Capital Metro

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2011

The clear leader in local government transparency at the moment is the Travis County Commissioners Court, whose members have unanimously said they would provide e-mails involving public business requested by the Austin American-Statesman and other news organizations—including those sent or received on personal e-mail accounts.

Not so with the City of Austin and Capital Metro. These agencies are using the public treasury to commit to spending as much as $250,000 for the purpose of getting advice about how to deal with violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act and resisting disclosure of records that should be available upon request under the Texas Public Information Act.

On March 1, The Austin Bulldog sued the mayor, each council member and the city over the refusal to turn over e-mails concerning city business that were generated on personal computers or cell phones, as requested under the Texas Public Information Act. That lawsuit, which also seeks a permanent injunction to require all communications involving city business be retained and made available upon request under the Texas Public Information Act, is pending. The city has until April 4 to file a response.

Capital Metro is following the city’s example by announcing last Friday it would release some of the e-mails requested by the Austin American-Statesman and other media, and not saying whether it would release board members’ e-mails about Capital Metro that were created or received on private accounts.

Commissioners proactive responses


Judge, Commissioners Face Token Opposition

Posted Saturday October 23, 2010 12:13pm
Travis County Judge, Commissioners
Face Token, Underfunded Opposition

Research Provides Detailed Background
Information on All Eight Candidates

Investigative Research by Jacob Cottingham
© The Austin Bulldog 2010

Editor’s Introduction:  As we did with our investigative research for Hays County candidates published October 19, The Austin Bulldog is again stepping off the beaten path of how to cover an election. We point you to some of the stories written by other publications, but we also provide detailed information that journalists seldom take the time to dig up and assemble.

Rather than selectively quote from our background research, our approach is to use an extensive, organized plan to find, copy, and publish source documents that you can explore to form your own conclusions about people seeking elective office.

We’ve dug into the public records and published what was found, to include voter registration and voter history; personal financial statements, campaign finance reports, business records, property records, service on boards, key staff, spouses, web pages, and links to news stories. For some candidates we also found track records for previous bids for public office, State Bar profiles for attorneys, and real estate broker and mortgage broker licenses.

Incumbents face weak opposition
What becomes glaringly obvious in reviewing all the documents assembled by The Austin Bulldog is that the three incumbent Democrats on the Travis County Commissioners Court will apparently have little to fear when the polls close on November 2.

Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, who has held this position since 1999, is being challenged by Republican Mike McNamara, who has raised a single $100 contribution and spent a total of $1,308 on his campaign. Most of that, $1,250, was to pay his filing fee. Libertarian Mark Tippetts, also running for county judge, has raised nothing and spent nothing.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt, who won her post in 2006, is opposed by Libertarian Matthew Finkel, who has neither raised nor spent any money on his campaign. Also running against Eckhardt is Republican David A. Buttross II, who vowed to raise no more than $500.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Margaret Gomez has held this office since 1995. She staved off a strong challenge from former Austin City Council Member Raul Alvarez to win this year’s Democratic Primary. Since then, she has missed months of meetings due to open heart surgery and hasn’t attended a full meeting since April, according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman. In the general election, she faces only Libertarian David Dreesen, who hasn’t raised or spent any money.

Buttross a political anomaly

Most rich folks who vie for public office spend sizeable chunks of their own money doing so. Farouk Shami, a Palestine-born Houston businessman, pledged to spend $10 million of his own money in the 2010 Democratic Primary. Tony Sanchez, the West Texas businessman, paid out-of-pocket a reported $60 million for his doomed 2002 Democratic gubernatorial bid, in which he got 40 percent of the vote in losing to Rick Perry.

Buttross is wealthy, too. How wealthy is questionable, but one of his websites claims he owns a $50 million real estate portfolio, with $20 million in real estate notes and $30 million in real estate consisting of office buildings, apartment complexes, residential properties, grocery stories, warehouses, hospitals, hotels, and churches.

Our research connected him and his family to 19 separate businesses and 33 properties, most in Travis County, but also in Bastrop, Bexar and Williamson counties, with a total market valuation of $17.4 million, according to appraisal district records.

His home in West Austin, according to the Travis Central Appraisal District, is valued at nearly $1.9 million.

Yet Buttross does not risk his personal funds to further his political ambitions, or even bother to raise much.

Citizen Requests Investigation

Posted Thursday July 22, 2010 3:26pm
Georgetown Resident Files Complaint
with Travis County District Attorney

Complaint Names District Attorney,
City Attorney, and Council Member

by Ken Martin

On July 13, eight citizens told the Georgetown City Council they wanted an investigation into numerous matters reported by The Austin Bulldog and the Williamson County Sun.

As reported by The Austin Bulldog July 18, the matters of concern include a $13,600 payment made to Council Member Pat Berryman that was facilitated by City Attorney Mark Sokolow; Sokolow’s hiring as the city attorney involving a violation of the Open Meetings Act and working under a contract that was never legally executed; Sokolow’s violation of the Georgetown City Charter by hiring of an assistant city attorney without getting city council approval; and the city’s ongoing resistance to releasing public records requested by the media.

At that meeting, Georgetown Council Member Patty Eason’s motion for such an investigation was not even discussed by the council, because no other council member would second the motion.

John BradleyJohn Bradley, the Williamson County district attorney, looked into a request for an investigation—filed by The Austin Bulldog May 11—concerning the payment made to Council Member Berryman. Bradley dismissed the matter without prosecution, as reported by the Williamson County Sun July 18.

But, like the famous baseball player and manager Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

And one Georgetown citizen just can’t let it go.