Treasure Trove of Public Documents Made Available in Searchable Format
E-mails, Text Messages, Meeting Notes Obtained Through Open Records, Lawsuit
While many e-mails exchanged by the Austin mayor and city council members have been made public previously, as they were released in large batches by the city or dribbled out in small quantities by individual council members, The Austin Bulldog continues to get requests for these files to be made available in a searchable format.
To that end, this report consolidates all records previously made public, adds hundreds of new records, and presents them in searchable files.
All told, The Austin Bulldog obtained more than 4,800 pages of public records through a series of requests filed under the Texas Public Information Act and a lawsuit against the mayor, council members and City of Austin.
More than 600 pages of these records—in the lingo used by the City of Austin—came out of computer folders titled “deleted” or in “dumpsters” that were not searched initially in response to our open records requests. Salvaging these records is important because otherwise they could have been permanently removed at the touch of a button, in possible violation of state law and city regulations governing records retention.
More than 500 pages of these never before published records were obtained from City Manager Marc Ott, including a volume of notes in his own, fairly legible handwriting that reflect the topics discussed with the mayor and council members during private one-on-one meetings.
The Austin Bulldog’s lawsuit triggered the release of about 1,500 pages of these e-mails. These include:
• E-mails about city business that were sent or received using the mayor and council members private e-mail accounts (almost 300 pages).
• E-mails about city business that Council Member Bill Spelman sent on his University of Texas account (200 pages).
• E-mails located by the city’s Communications and Technology Management (CTM) office through additional searches for responsive records (1,000 pages).
The Austin Bulldog’s open records requests asked for only those e-mails exchanged by the mayor, council members and city manager from January 1, 2010, through January 27, 2011. Our request did not ask for e-mails about any particular topic. E-mail exchanges that included other individuals are only incidental.
Mayor Lee Leffingwell:
Initial release: 95 pages
CTM search: 19 pages
Personal e-mail accounts: 116 pages
Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez:
First and second releases: 370 pages (including 2010 e-mails that were not originally provided)
CTM search: 14 pages
Personal e-mail accounts: 14 pages
Council Member Sheryl Cole:
Initial release: 369 pages
CTM search: 96 pages
Personal e-mail accounts: 9 pages
Council Member Laura Morrison:
Initial release: 360 pages
CTM search: 10 pages
Personal e-mail accounts: 11 pages
Text messages: 34 pages
Council Member Chris Riley:
Initial release: 217 pages
CTM search: 276 pages
Personal e-mail accounts: 34 pages
Council Member Randi Shade:
Personal e-mail accounts: 104 pages
Council Member Bill Spelman:
Initial release: 15 pages
CTM search: 1 page
Initial University of Texas account release: 10 pages
Second University of Texas account release: 199 pages
“Deleted” e-mails for all council members 601 pages:
City Manager Marc Ott’s notes and documents involving meetings with:
Mayor Leffingwell: 45 pages
Mayor Pro Tem Martinez: 83 pages
Council Member Cole: 16 pages
Council Member Morrison: 126 pages
Council Member Riley: 148 pages
Council Member Shade: 45 pages
Council Member Spelman: 49 pages
Answers to council members’ questions supplied by the city manager’s office: 63 pages
This report was made possible by contributions to The Austin Bulldog, which operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to provide investigative reporting in the public interest. You can help to sustain The Austin Bulldog’s reporting by making a tax-deductible contribution.