City of McAllen continues to withhold parade information

By Mitchell Ferman
The Monitor
Originally published March 22, 2016

The City of McAllen called The Monitor’s open records request for issued checks, documents and emails between city officials relating to the Enrique Iglesias concert in December 2015 a “backdoor” attempt to “circumvent” a previous ruling from the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

The city complied with a portion of the request while deferring the rest of the request to an opinion from the attorney general.

In a letter to the attorney general pertaining to the request, the city stated it will be negotiating similar contracts and documents with other performers in the future.

“Releasing this information would undermine similar efforts to procure professional entertainment and artists for next year’s annual holiday parade,” the letter stated.

Mayor Jim Darling and City Manager Roy Rodriguez both said at a March 7 meeting the city will look to hire a promoter for future concerts.

“We won’t go forward as a self-promoter again,” Darling said.

On March 10, the attorney general’s office released a ruling stating McAllen may keep terms of the Iglesias contract confidential.

State Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, told The Monitor on March 11 his staff is working toward writing legislation to make government more transparent.

The Monitor requested checks issued between the city and three different companies that dealt with the design, production and other details of the concert. The Monitor also requested issued checks between the city and Iglesias’s agency.

The city did not release the issued checks between the city and those three companies nor did it release the issued checks with Iglesias’s agency.

“This is the problem when governments keep secrets from the taxpayers,” said Carlos Sanchez, editor of The Monitor. “They can claim, ‘this secret is related to that secret.’ When does it stop?”

Canales told The Monitor on Tuesday that it’s “disheartening” how the city is withholding so much public information.

Canales’ office has been in contact with the attorney general’s office recently. They have given Canales and his staff guidance in respect to where transparency problems exist and how legislation could fix them.

“The bottom line is the city is not in the entertainment business — it’s not their job to procure entertainment,” Canales said. “It seems to me, they’re grasping at straws.”

National Sunshine Week was March 13-19. Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.