Isle to discuss legal options against newspaper after report

By JOHN WAYNE FERGUSON
Originally published by the Galveston County Daily News on May 24, 2013

GALVESTON — The city council Thursday voted to hold a special meeting next week to discuss their legal options against The Daily News after an article unveiling the city’s plans for potential legal action over future public housing on the island.

The article was based on a legal opinion written by Dallas attorney Terry D. Morgan. Morgan was commissioned by the city council in March and provided a report to city council members in April. The memo outlines potential ways the city may try to stop some scattered-site housing units from being built on the island and ways the city might be able to convince state and federal leaders that the units would be better located in other parts of the county.

The issue was the last one taken up by the city council Thursday and was proposed by City Attorney Dorothy Palumbo.

‘I have no choice’
Earlier in the meeting, Palumbo asked a Daily News reporter to turn over any confidential city documents in his possession.

Palumbo cited a part of the state’s records law that says a governing body “may demand and receive from any person any local government record in private possession created or received by the local government the removal of which was not authorized by law.”

“I have no choice but to ask the council to call a special meeting so that I can pursue that under this local government code provision to receive the record back,” Palumbo said. “It is confidential. There was no authorized release.”

Rosen’s request
Daily News attorney Charles Daughtry said the law Palumbo cited clearly related to original documents, not various kinds of copies, which, like those cited in The Daily News article, had been obtained through normal, legal and Constitutionally protected methods of news gathering.

The Daily News did not supply any documents to the city on Thursday.

“We’re going to need to pursue litigation,” Palumbo said.

Just before Palumbo’s call for a special meeting, Mayor Lewis Rosen asked for Palumbo to prepare a report on how the revelation of the legal opinion “violated attorney-client privilege.”

“I would like to take whatever legal action is necessary,” Rosen said.

Reached after the meeting, the mayor declined to comment further about the issue.
The special meeting will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

‘Cause some issues’
There was little other public discussion about the city’s scattered-site plans during the meeting, aside from a few references made during a report by City Manager Michael Kovacs.

“I think the story that came out today talking about the city’s legal positions, that I think, may cause some issues with the GLO,” Kovacs said during an update on the state of the city’s allotment of Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery money.

“It’s important to note that the city is not initiating anything like that,” Kovacs that. “The council’s been criticized for not doing a good job of working on our legal option, and we’ve done that.

“It doesn’t mean necessarily that we’re going to use those options.”

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At a glance
WHAT: Special Galveston City Council meeting
WHERE: City hall, 823 25th St.
WHEN: 11 a.m. Tuesday

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com.