Del Mar College resolves public information problem

By Dave Hendricks
Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Originally published Sept. 30, 2014

CORPUS CHRISTI – Del Mar College and accountant Ed Bennett, who’s running for an at-large seat on the college’s Board of Regents, publicly resolved a $26.7 million question on Tuesday afternoon.

Concerned about bad debt write-offs at the taxpayer funded community college, Bennett had requested financial documents under the Texas Public Information Act. He requested 10 years worth of what accountants call “general ledger transactions” for seven accounts — and all documents related to them.

Del Mar interpreted Bennett’s request literally and provided him with a statement, which estimated the request would cost $27,745,561.40, encompass approximately 105,565,614 records and take about 123 years to process, according to documents obtained by the Caller-Times through a public information request.

What Del Mar apparently didn’t do was ask Bennett what he actually wanted.

“We probably should have,” said attorney Augustin “Augie” Rivera Jr., who represents the community college. “But we’re doing it now.”

Rivera and several top Del Mar administrators met with Bennett on Tuesday afternoon and talked about the public records request. They managed to resolve the problem within 15 minutes.

“I think Augie Rivera is incredibly good. I like the guy. I really do. He’s smart,” Bennett said, describing how the attorney managed the meeting. “They gave him a piece of garbage to work with and he did a wonderful job.”

The incident provides an opportunity for Del Mar to review the public information request process, Rivera said, and attempt to stop something similar from happening.

“And we’ll look at ways to make sure that next time there’s a $27 million cost estimate that we look very, very carefully at it,” Rivera said. “And make sure that’s what the requester wants.”