April 18, 2016 – Tim Cushing
El Paso’s (TX) government keeps screwing around with local public records laws… and for some truly unexpected reasons.
First, the normal stuff. A city council member seems to be toying with the idea of limiting public access to records, starting out with those many members the public might agree shouldn’t be allowed to do much of anything.
The El Paso City Council stepped back from a hot and slick slope Tuesday afternoon, killing a proposal to deny open records to people with a felony or a single kind of misdemeanor conviction.
Most convicts already have diminished rights, depending on their convictions. Denying open records to ex-cons or those in prison denies them access to justice. It doesn’t happen often, but prisoners have been able to have their cases reheard by uncovering prosecutorial misconduct through FOIA requests. And let’s not forget that a man imprisoned for tax fraud blew the lid off law enforcement’s use of Stingray devices while still behind bars, thanks to incessant FOIA requests.
The step back from the slope was one of pure capitulation: council member Emma Acosta never tabled the motion. Apparently she was well-aware the discriminatory suggestion wouldn’t survive a challenge. She instead proposed that telephone numbers of city employees should be redacted and her “no criminals allowed” suggestion was removed from the agenda.
As Watchdog.org points out, this new public records activity follows an outside investigation into the city’s withholding of documents requested by the El Paso Times. [READ MORE]