Columns

Final audit reports are public information; audit working papers are not

Q: Our hospital district board of trustees went into closed session with an outside independent auditor, the board’s attorney, the district attorney and local law enforcement to discuss a forensic audit of district’s finances under its former president. Afterward, the board reconvened in open session and did not discuss the audit results, but voted to send the audit report to law enforcement. Didn’t the board have a duty to discuss the audit report and say why they are sending it to law enforcement before calling a vote?

‘The Litigation Exception:’ A strange creature of darkness in government

Section 552.103 of the Texas Public Information Act—the “litigation exception”—is a uniquely strange exception to “prompt” disclosure of public information. Generally, it permits a governmental body to withhold information “relating to litigation of a civil or criminal nature” in which the government is, or may become, a party, viewed as of the date a requestor asks for the information.

Who, Toto? Toto’s my dog!

Back in the “olden days” of my childhood I could never wait for “The Wizard of Oz” to come on television. It seems like it came on as a special every year or so in those days before DVR, DVD and VHS. And even on our black-and-white television, the colors of Munchkin City came to life in my childhood imagination.
The Wizard of Oz was a powerful, almost god-like manifestation when first seen in the 1939 classic. Of course, later, little Toto drew back the curtain to expose the man operating the controls.

E-mail generated by a public official is public information

Q: The superintendent of a school district I cover sends out a weekly e-mail to school board members. First, do you know where I could find, either in statute or in an attorney general’s decision, whether that e-mail is considered public record? Second, I would like to be included on the list for receiving those e-mails. Do you know of any statute or AG decision that would require the superintendent to include me on the list?

Time for social media pushback?

A number of years ago I lived in a small town that had what most small towns have: a community newspaper. In this particular case, the owner of the paper also held political office (Justice of the Peace). He had very strong political beliefs, and they came through very clearly in the pages of his newspaper.
In fact, his beliefs were so strong, and so extreme, there was little if any tolerance in his newspaper for opinions that were not in line with his.
This period came to mind because there was, in that newspaper, what I consider to be a huge conflict of interest.

Converting to Requester Periodicals: Part 1

 

Changes in the business environment for community newspapers have encouraged a growing number of publishers to investigate the Requester Periodicals category that allows a newspaper to qualify for Periodicals rates and service by having more than 50 percent of its circulation either paid or requested. The General Periodicals category long-used by newspapers requires paid circulation.