City of Austin’s answer claims suit is moot as it has provided all responsive records
The City of Austin is in effect thumbing its nose at the lawsuit filed by longtime civic activist Brian Rodgers concerning alleged failure to supply records he had requested about a trio of controversial projects.
The City claims the suit is moot because it’s already produced all the public records responsive to Rodgers’ public information requests.
“This is incredible,” said attorney Bill Aleshire of Aleshire Law PC, who represents Rodgers in this legal action and filed the lawsuit June 11.
The lawsuit claims the city failed to comply with the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA) in responding to several requests in which Rodgers asked for records involving:
• Correspondence between City officials and the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA) while plans for a light rail election were being devised,
• Records about how the plan was formulated to allow some 700 acres of Walter E. Long parkland to be turned over to a for-profit developer without getting voter approval as required by the Austin City Charter.
• Records about the city’s failure to timely respond to notice from the Texas Department of Transportation and losing the opportunity to purchase surplus property on Bull Creek Road that could have been developed as a park but instead went to a private for-profit developer.
“The factual allegations in the lawsuit are still true,” Aleshire said. “We have received nothing from the city in response for the request for the City Council communication with DAA. Even after I warned them, pre-suit, that we had received nothing on that request, I’ve received no response.”
Next move will be discovery
With plaintiff Rodgers and defendant City of Austin at apparent loggerheads, what’s next?
“Discovery,” Aleshire said, referring to the procedure by which opposing attorneys obtain information before trial. Discovery can include demands for production of documents, depositions of parties and potential witnesses, written interrogatories, and more, according to Law.com.
The City of Austin’s brief and to-the-point answer to the June 11 lawsuit filed by Rodgers, states, “Defendant City of Austin asserts that Plaintiff’s claims are moot because it has voluntarily produced all public records that are responsive to the public information requests identified in the petition.”
The city’s answer, filed by Assistant City Attorney Christopher John Coppola, also seeks discovery.
Coppola has represented the City of Austin in a number of cases. He assisted in the $750,000 settlement to the family of Nathaniel Sanders II, who was shot and killed by an Austin police officer. (See Austin Chronicle article, “Sanders Lawsuit: “A Deal Is a Deal.)
Coppola defended Austin police officers Eric Copeland and Russell Rose in a federal lawsuit in which plaintiff Carlos Chacon won a verdict for $1 million. (Carlos Chacon v. City of Austin et al, Case 1:12:cv-00226-SS). See also Texas Lawyer article of March 24, 2015, naming Broadus Spivey Litigator of the Week.
In 2011, Aleshire has represented The Austin Bulldog in two lawsuits against the City of Austin over failure to comply with the Texas Public Information Act. (See links to related stories below.)
Related Bulldog coverage:
City Sued Over Public Records: Brian Rodgers lawsuit alleges failure to lawfully respond to requests on three high-profile topics, June 12, 2015
Downtown Alliance Rail Spending Questioned: Civic activist Rodgers warns City of Austin not to reimburse $440,000 in Let’s Go Austin contributions, November 25, 2014
The Austin Bulldog Files Second Lawsuit Against City of Austin for Withholding Records: City not responsive to open records request concerning water treatment plant construction, September 1, 2011
The Austin Bulldog Files Lawsuit to Compel Compliance with the Law: Mayor and council members not in compliance with statutes for public information, records retention, March 2, 2011
Brian Rodgers, Plaintiff, v. The City of Austin, Defendant, Cause No. D-1-GN-15-002291 (34 pages with exhibits)
Defendant’s Original Answer, Affirmative Defenses, and Request for Disclosure in Brian Rodgers, Plaintiff, v. The City of Austin, Defendant, Cause No. D-1-GN-15-002291 (3 pages).