Conroe, April 24 –
When Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ruled on March 1, 2018, that Montgomery County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport must release her office procedures manual and overruled Davenport’s objections to the public disclosure, the Attorney General made clear that County employee dates of birth and social security numbers should not be among the disclosed information. But when Davenport finally released the document, on Thursday, March 8, after the March 6 Republican Primary Election was over, the County Treasurer failed to redact several dates of birth and numerous pages with County government employee names, dates of birth, and social security numbers. Of course, there was no reason for such information to be within an office procedures manual at all.
The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, has confirmed that Montgomery County Attorney J.D. Lambright and District Attorney Brett Ligon are considering possible criminal charges against Davenport or other individuals in Davenport’s Treasurer’s Office involved in the release of the information, Lambright explained, “We are looking at this issue and the District Attorney is making inquiries into this matter as well.”
Ever since County Treasurer candidate Melanie Pryor Bush requested the procedure manual on December 1, 2017, and private citizen Justin Pulliam made a similar request around the same time, Davenport made clear that she was aware she needed to redact County employee names, dates of birth, and social security numbers contained within the document. Of course, there are major questions why that information would be in an office procedure manual at all. Nevertheless, Davenport did not ensure that information was removed from the document when she released it to the family of convicted felons who are her political supporters and to the public.
After it became clear that Ligon and Lambright are investigating potential criminal charges against Davenport, Davenport has attempted to distance herself from the disclosure and, two sources have confirmed on condition of anonymity, Davenport has even attempted to place the blame for the public disclosure on her Deputy Treasurer, Judy Tarango.
At the same time, there is simply no way that Davenport and her office could not have had direct knowledge that she needed to redact the personal information from the procedures manual. Here’s why.
On February 28, 2018, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued his written ruling that Davenport had to release her office procedures manual, pursuant to the Texas Open Records/Texas Public Information Act. Justin Pulliam, one of the two requestors, immediately notified Davenport and Judy Tarango of General Paxton’s ruling and demanded release of the procedures manual, which Davenport had held in secrecy for three months (during the March 6 Republican Primary Election).
On March 1, 2018, however, at 5:06 p.m., Pulliam wrote to the County Treasurer’s Office the following and sent them a copy of General Paxton’s written ruling requiring the release of the procedures manual:
“I am confident your office has the intellectual capacity to redact certain birthdates, usernames, passwords, and social security numbers without someone highlighting them for you. I understand that it is possible your office may be unclear about what portions fall under 552.139; however, I am confident your office has the intellectual capacity to release segments that are not possibly excepted under 552.139.“Please promptly, without delay, complete the required redactions and release ALL (I am not sure what you mean by “relevant”) of the records responsive to my request.“Sincerely, Justin Pulliam ’12.”
In other words, a full week before Davenport released the procedures manual on March 8, which Davenport conveniently withheld until two days after the Republican Primary Election ended, Davenport and her office knew from at least three different sources that she was under a legal duty to redact the birthdates, usernames, passwords, and social security numbers of the County government employees that Davenport had placed into her office procedures manual. Those three sources were Pulliam, General Paxton, and Davenport herself as she had specifically discussed that precise issue in the December 19, 2017, meeting of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court.