Conroe, May 13 – Yesterday, one of the two primary requestors of Montgomery County Treasurer Stephanne Davenport’s office procedures manual under the Texas Open Records Act, called into serious question the decision of Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon not to prosecute.
Justin Pulliam, the businessman who requested the documents that County Treasurer Republican nominee Melanie Pryor Bush had also requested from Davenport, made the following statement about the results of the local prosecutor’s investigation:
“This looks like politics all the way around. I wonder what their ‘investigation’ was. No investigator talked to me, and she sent the confidential information to me. I even told her office that stuff needed to be redacted!”
On Friday, May 11, Ligon issued a press release in which he explained,
“Pursuant to Texas Government Code Section 552.352, a person commits an offense if the person (recklessly) distributes information considered confidential. In Texas, a person acts recklessly, or is reckless, with respect to circumstances surrounding his/her conduct of the result of his/her conduct when he/she is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint. The offense for recklessly distributing confidential information is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 and/or confinement in the county jail for not more than six months.
“Based on the facts gathered in this investigation and the applicable law, no criminal charges resulted for any Treasurer Department employees involved in the disclosure of the confidential information. The investigation uncovered that the confidential information disclosed was done so negligently and counter to the standards expected in a professional environment. Had the Treasurer Department availed themselves of the assistance of more experienced personnel or the County Attorney’s office, it is unlikely the disclosure would have occurred. Nevertheless, the information disclosed was in a format which, under initial review, made it difficult to decipher as employee dates of birth. Therefore, this investigation found that the disclosure was inadvertent and accidental and in the course of a necessary Open Records request response. Once the disclosure was brought to the attention of the Treasure Department, steps were taken to immediately remove the content from the public realm and mitigate the possibility of misuse of the information. This investigation is concluded.”
Pulliam was the first person, besides the family of convicted felons who are close friends of Davenport, who received the office procedures manual that still contained the names, dates of birth, and social security numbers of approximately seventy County employees. Soon after Pulliam received the office procedures manual from Davenport, he shared the documents in a dropbox with a few other individuals, including the Publisher of The Golden Hammer.
Since Pulliam, Davenport herself, Montgomery County Attorney J.D. Lambright, Assistant County Attorney John McKinney, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had all admonished Davenport not to release that personal employee information in any public release of the office procedures manual, it would seem rather difficult to explain how the District Attorney’s Office could conclude that Davenport did not act recklessly. It is also unfathomable how the District Attorney could conclude that “information disclosed was in a format which, under initial review, made it difficult to decipher as employee dates of birth” without actually interviewing the precise person to whom Davenport disclosed that information at the beginning (after the family of convicted felons).
Pulliam told The Golden Hammer early this morning, ““Davenport had months—months—to get this right: The single most scrutinized task of her tenure. Her playing politics instead of upholding public duties hurt dedicated county employees. The only possible legitimate excuse is that she does not understand how her own office operates, and that would also be inexcusable.”
Additionally, Pulliam said, “I am very sorry about what happen to those exposed, and I pray that their confidential information does not fall into the hands of financial criminals or others who might cause harm. The county must end the practice of unnecessary reproduction and storage of employee and citizen confidential information, such as using real names, birthdates, and social security numbers in ‘procedure manuals.’”