Conroe, July 26 – Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley easily made the most ignorant comment of the entire day, July 25, 2018, of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court budget workshop. In response to a request by Montgomery County Attorney J.D. Lambright to hire an additional attorney and a legal assistant and buy some computer software to streamline responses to requests from citizens under the Texas Public Information Act/Open Records Act, Riley, who is under criminal indictment and is currently fighting for secret government to have the Texas Open Meetings Act declared unconstitutional, said about making government documents “public information,” “The only thing that’s going to stop this is if the Attorney General says it’s harassment and it’s gotta stop.”
“The only thing that’s going to stop this is if the AG says it’s harassment and it’s gotta stop.” — Ignorant Precinct 2 County Commissioner Charlie Riley speaking about requests under the Texas Public Information Act from citizens seeking County government records.
Riley doesn’t understand much about Texas or about Texas law, which provides under Section 552.001 of the Texas Government Code also known as the Texas Public Information Act, “Under the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government that adheres to the principle that government is the servant and not the master of the people, it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees. 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. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed to implement this policy.”
Riley, a secretive elitist, obviously doesn’t want to provide public information to the public.
What Lambright proposed to the Commissioners Court on Wednesday, July 25, was to make his office the central clearinghouse for all Open Records Act requests, so that the County Attorney’s Office could handle all such requests efficiently rather than requiring citizens to send requests all over the County government to different departments and to require all departments to respond to those requests on their own. Riley’s office, in particular, seems to have great difficulty responding to Open Records Act requests, because Riley has not trained his support staff how to respond efficiently to them.
Lambright mentioned that the County government receives many thousands of Open Records Act requests each year, although his office has been asked to provide legal advice for only 419 of them since January 1, 2018.
Riley tried to blame all of those Open Records Act requests on The Golden Hammer, which does, in fact, propound some such requests. Therefore, this newspaper conducted a statistical survey to determine how many Open Records Act requests this newspaper sent during 2018. The following are the results:
- Total Open Records Act requests from The Golden Hammer to the Montgomery County government during 2018: 27.
- Total Open Records Act requests necessitated by failure of the County Judge and Commissioners Court to append agenda backup materials to Commissioners Court agenda during 2018: 16.
- Total Open Records Act requests sent to Precinct 2 Commissioner Riley during 2018: 2.
Riley tried to blame the increased budget request for handling Open Records Act requests on The Golden Hammer and two additional requestors. Assistant County Attorney B.D. Griffin responded, “I wouldn’t go that far, Commissioner.”
Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack responded that his office had to respond to two Open Records Act requests totaling 23,000 hard copy paper pages. (This newspaper always requests electronic production of documents to save paper, trouble, and expenses.)
Noack said, “I want to streamline this process as much as possible to make public information easily available to the public.”
Noack and Texas law seem to follow a different tack from the secretive Riley who wishes he could hide everything he does from public scrutiny.