Activist, city of Austin settle open records lawsuit

By Andra Lim
Austin American-Statesman
Originally published Nov. 2, 2015

Civic activist Brian Rodgers will receive $5,000 from the city as part of an agreement to settle the lawsuit he filed in June accusing Austin of violating state open records law.

The lawsuit said the city failed to respond fully, or even at all, to records requests Rodgers filed on three controversial topics: the Downtown Austin Alliance’s support for last November’s light rail ballot measure; the Decker Lake Golf proposal to build luxury golf courses on parkland by Lake Walter E. Long; and the city’s attempt to purchase the state-owned and largely undeveloped Bull Creek Road tract, which was later bought by a private developer.

“We should never have had to file it,” attorney Bill Aleshire said of the lawsuit Monday, after the Austin Bulldog first reported the settlement. “No one should have to go to this much trouble to get records from the city of Austin.”

The city turned over an “avalanche” of records after the lawsuit was filed, though many of those records had already been provided to Rodgers before the lawsuit, Aleshire said.

New records produced by the city included thousands of emails between the city and the Downtown Austin Alliance, Aleshire said.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, the city hadn’t provided any records in response to Rodgers’ request regarding the Downtown Austin Alliance, the lawsuit said. The city’s response to the lawsuit said it was “moot” because Austin had provided all public documents responsive to Rodgers’ requests.

Earlier this year, the Downtown Austin Alliance agreed to provide financial records and correspondence to Rodgers after the Texas Attorney General ruled the alliance was subject to the Texas Public Information Act.

The alliance, which is almost entirely funded by city property tax revenue from the downtown area, gave $440,000 to last year’s unsuccessful campaign for light rail in Austin.