City must release personnel records in firing of finance director
TEXAS — The City of Garland must release to The Dallas Morning News documents concerning a former city finance director’s termination and the city’s firing and hiring practices, according to a mid-September decision by a Texas trial court. The city must also pay the paper’s legal expenses.
State District Judge Ted Akin ruled that the city must provide the newspaper with all materials gathered since 1990 on director James Hager’s job performance and termination, a list of employee terminations at managerial levels since January 1992, and a list of hires at the managerial level or above since 1992.
The judge also ordered Garland to pay the newspaper’s legal costs, to be determined at an October trial. Lawyers for the paper told the judge at an August hearing that the fees amounted to more than $25,000.
The city government originally sought a court order in October 1993 declaring that the paper was not entitled to the materials, three weeks after a Morning News reporter requested them. The city argued that the documents were not public under the state open records law because of a potential legal action between Hager and the city. This, in turn, prompted the paper to sue the city for violating the open records law by denying access to the documents.
The judge ruled that the city violated the open records law by failing to seek within ten days of the request an opinion from the Texas attorney general about whether it could lawfully withhold the information.
(City of Garland v. Dallas Morning News; Stephen E. Fox, Dallas)