Council keeps public records in dark (video)

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

June 18, 2013 at 1:18 a.m.
Updated June 19, 2013 at 1:19 a.m.

City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz.

City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz.   Frank Tilley for The Victoria Advocate

While questions overshadow Victoria City Council's transparency, one councilman chose to keep matters behind closed doors Tuesday evening.

Councilman David Hagan, who had asked why the city did not seek an attorney general opinion about two records requests the Advocate filed May 15 and May 21, opted to have his questions answered in executive session Tuesday after a 3 1/2-hour meeting.

Initially, Hagan said he had no preference whether to keep the discussion public, but within minutes he decided against it.

Although he said he was relying on the advice of City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz to not give up attorney-client privilege, Hagan has not relied on the attorney general's opinions that personal correspondence involving public business are public record, including emails, phone calls, text messages and any other means.

As for when Hagan plans to release his phone records for the month of May, which may shed light on a possible Texas Open Meetings violation, Hagan said, "no comment" and walked away.

The Advocate has filed letters of complaint with Criminal District Attorney Stephen Tyler and Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Mayor Paul Polasek said he did not push the issue to have the discussion in public because it was Hagan's decision.

However, he said if it comes up again, he would endorse having the discussions in public.

Polasek, former mayor Will Armstrong and Councilman Tom Halepaska are the only three who have complied with both records requests.

Hagan, Councilwoman Josephine Soliz and former Councilman Joe Truman have not provided any email records but rather statements that they have none available. Hagan and Soliz have not responded to the request for phone records. Truman said he will make his available but had not as of Tuesday night.

Councilman Emett Alvarez offered several emails and made a month's worth available through a social media website. However, he has not released phone records.

As one of the three who complied with the requests, Halepaska said he wants to see how the document requests play out.

He would not comment whether that meant a criminal investigation into violations of the public information or open meetings acts.

"They have to answer for themselves," Halepaska said. "I'm doing what I think is right."

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