Last week, former county judge candidate Tex Riley announced that he had filed a lawsuit against the Blanco County Commissioners Court to request the release of records about the county’s authorization to pay $750,000 for the purchase of the city block. Riley claims that the same property had been offered for sale by previous owners for at least $300,000 less just two weeks earlier.
Riley alleges that the county commissioners court held three closed meetings before purchasing the property without a written contract. He also states that a criminal investigation began in early 2009 after a federal grand jury convened in Austin.
Riley claims the commissioners court attempted to keep the federal grand jury subpoena and tape recordings pertaining to the closed session meetings secret in response to his information requests.
According to Blanco County Attorney Dean Myane’s office, Riley’s requests, though time- and resource-intensive, were answered in a timely manner. A statement released by Myane’s office states that Blanco County Judge Bill Guthrie and County Treasurer Camille Swift each received an open records request on September 7, 2010, from Riley.
“In compliance with the Texas Public Information Act,” the statement continues, “elected officials and county staff worked diligently to respond to Mr. Riley’s requests in the time period required by the Act. Hundreds of hours were expended in the location, examination and production of documents exceeding seven thousand (7,000) pages of responsive information which were made available to and reviewed by Mr. Riley, including real estate records.”
In order to comply with the part of the Public Information Act that prohibits the release of certain protected information, Blanco County also retained the law firm of Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta, L.L.P. The law firm presented the information to the Texas Attorney General and requested a ruling regarding the public disclosure of the information.
The county attorney’s statement adds that “[the] Texas Attorney General in ruling dated December 9, 2010, supported, in large measure, the position of the County that certain requested information could not be released. Any information that the Attorney General did authorize for release was immediately made available to [the] requestor.”
According to Riley’s press release, the Texas Attorney General concluded that the subpoena could not be withheld from the public, but that the tape recordings were not subject to disclosure except by a district court order in a lawsuit filed under the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Riley has now filed a suit in Blanco County’s district court to ask that the tape recordings be released. The Commissioners Court convened a special meeting on January 28 and approved a resolution to have the county’s attorneys answer and defend against said suit.
“Blanco County makes every effort to comply with the Public Information Act and plans to defend the County against Mr. Riley’s suit in accordance with the law,” concludes the statement from Myane’s office.