Depositions expose Austin public information flaws

By Ken Martin
The Austin Bulldog
Originally published Nov. 9, 2015

“The City of Austin is committed to an open and transparent government. I believe this is an integral part of maintaining a vital and robust democracy.” — City Manager Marc Ott

Marc OttOtt published this oft-repeated pledge in an April 8, 2015, memo titled “City of Austin Open Data Initiative 2.0.”

Yet, the City has failed to consistently live up to that commitment. By actual performance the City has demonstrated that it receives and routes public information requests to departments or offices thought to have the applicable records but fails to follow up and ensure compliance with the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA) Government Code Chapter 552.

A prime example of the City’s spotty performance was evidenced in the outcome of the lawsuit Brian Rodgers v. City of Austin. As reported November 2, 2015, by The Austin Bulldog, the City agreed to pay Rodgers $5,000 to settle the case and thereby avoid a motion for sanctions or a full-blown trial over its gross mishandling of his public information requests and its inept response to the lawsuit.

Rodgers, who spent about twice the amount he’s getting back in settling the lawsuit, considers the expense to be a good investment in his education as a civic activist. As the plaintiff he sat in on the two depositions taken in this case and observed firsthand how the public officials answered. Read more…