To the Editor:
A couple of weeks ago I went to the County Clerk’s Office and asked to see the Commissioners Court Records. I was told that records of the Commissioners’ Court were not available to the public; the only documents available to the public, according the County Clerk, are the minutes of the Commissioners’ Court published online.
While I was in the County Clerk’s Office, I saw the printed packets, not made available to the public, stored in a cardboard box on the floor.
I wondered if the law on open records had changed since I was County Judge so I looked it up and it is The Public Information Act as found in Chapter 552 of the Government Code. The law’s stated Policy and Construction is “…government is the servant and not the master of the people.”
The law goes on to say “it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled unless otherwise expressly prohibited by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government.” Additionally the law states “the people in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.”
In order to be able to see these records, I have filed an Open Records Request with the County Judge, who is the Custodian of the Commissioner’s Court records, requesting the Walmart contract and the packets for four meetings of the Commissioner’s Court. As to the contract, the Attorney General’s Office may decide it fits within the exceptions referred to in the law, but I do not know.
As for the other four items requested were packets of given dates. I know that Commissioners Court packets are sent electronically to the commissioners and to the Newsboy and the Post-Register. I do not understand why information provided to the newspapers is unfit for the general public’s eyes.
Will I get the records I requested under the Public Information Act? Maybe I will. The greater question is why is the public denied access to that which is promised to them under the law?
Rebecca M. Hawener
Caldwell County Judge (Retired)