Waco, Texas

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Waco Texas is a city in McLennan County Texas.

Evaluating the website

The good

  • The website for Waco Texas includes the names and contact information of all city council members.[1]
  • City council meeting agendas, supporting documentation and minutes are published.[2]
  • The full budget and a budget summary are provided.[3]
  • The procedure for filing open records requests is also published.[4]

Public records

The city of Waco was the most reluctant in the state to release public information in 2011, appealing 20 percent of requests to the Texas Attorney General's office. (Other "peer cities" appealed far fewer cases, and Dallas appealed about 5.5 percent that year.) Requesting a ruling from the attorney general can delay the release of information to the public by months. Waco sued the AG's office nine times in a 10-year period when city officials disagreed with a ruling, also more than other cities.[5] The local newspaper editorialized that the former city attorney "embarked on what seemed a crusade to keep public information from the public", claiming "She failed to abide by state law and impeded the release of everything from arrest warrant affidavits to bids on a community project of importance to residents." The editorial also noted that other city departments mistakenly believe that officials have 10 days to turn over information, a misreading of the Texas Public Information Act, which specifies "prompt access to information".[6]

In 2011, the Waco city attorney's office adopted a policy that delayed the release of arrest warrant information. The policy required the filing of a Public Information Act request, which then was subject to review by the attorney's office, delaying release by days. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure says the arrest warrant affidavits must be made public "beginning immediately when the warrant is executed".[7]

The newspaper questioned city council members' leadership with regard to the city attorney during this period. Citing a lack of action even after members had "vowed to address" the situation, the newspaper opined that "the council appears to be complicit or unwilling to stand up to an appointed official who is supposed to report to them — not the other way around."[8]

A Texas Attorney General's ruling in 2011 stated that the city erred in withholding information about development proposals from the newspaper. In this case, the information had been previously provided to others in the public, but withheld from the newspaper. The ruling said the law "does not permit selective disclosure of information to the public." It said the city could have temporarily withheld certain bidding information until a contract was signed.[9]

In 2010, the Waco Police Department refused to answer FOIA requests from the student newspaper at Baylor University, saying that it would not release the information until the case was brought to court.[10][11] This is not a condition of the Texas Public Information Act.

Lobbying

Main article: Texas government sector lobbying
Main article: Texas Municipal League members list

Waco pays membership dues to the Texas Municipal League, a government sector lobbying association.

External links

References

  1. City Council
  2. Agendas, minutes
  3. Budget information
  4. Open Records
  5. Waco Tribune-Herald, Getting open records in city often can be a slow process, June 24, 2012
  6. Editorial Waco leaders should recall snafus when picking next city attorney, Waco Tribune-Herald, December 18, 2011
  7. Waco city officials delaying release of arrest information, Waco Tribune-Herald, July 10, 2011.
  8. EDITORIAL: Continued defiance of state law highlights repeated failures of Waco City Council, Waco Tribune-Herald, October 30, 2011
  9. Ruling: City of Waco erred in withholding public info, Waco Tribune-Herald, December 16, 2011
  10. The Lariat Online, Editorial: When we're stonewalled, the public loses, too, Oct. 12, 2010
  11. Texas Watchdog, Waco Police Department withholds arrest record from The Lariat at Baylor University, Oct. 12, 2010