City of San Antonio seeks AG opinion on releasing audio evidence in non-discrimination ordinance complaint

By Ryan Loyd
Texas Public Radio
Originally published Aug. 27, 2014

The city of San Antonio is seeking an opinion from the Texas attorney general’s office on whether it must release sensitive audio files under the Public Information Act. The city contends that some of the documents relating to San Antonio’s first non-discrimination ordinance complaint are confidential.

Matt Hileman, a transgender man, worked for AT&T as a third-party contract employee through RGP Consulting, a staffing agency for highly skilled workers. It was about the time the city council was debating the revised non-discrimination ordinance last September when Hileman overheard two of his colleagues talking about the issue in a way Hileman considered to be offensive. He recorded the employees’ conversation.

Last month the city received separate open records request from TPR and online LGBT news publication QSan Antonio to obtain a copy of the audio recording. But the city maintains that the information is confidential under the Public Information Act — content considered to be intimate and embarrassing that is of no legitimate concern to the public.

The city considers the employees’ conversation to be just that, and in a certified letter to TPR said the employees did not know they were being recorded:

“Some of the opinions expressed address highly embarrassing facts about highly intimate or private affairs of the complainant and/or the persons speaking that would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person.”

AT&T attorney Diego Peña mailed TPR his objections to the request as well. He reiterated some of the reasons submitted to the attorney general by the city of San Antonio, one of which included that the employees did not know they were being recorded.

“Texas law prohibits the unlawful interception of a wire, oral, or electronic communication without the consent of at least one party to the communication,” the letter said.

Further, AT&T spokesperson Marty Richter said in a statement to TPR that releasing the file violates the privacy rights of the employees, who have not been accused of doing anything illegal.

The attorney general’s response is expected in late September or early October.