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Official papers for Bush, Giuliani find refuge in private archives

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    NMU         TEXAS / NEW YORK         Freedom of Information         Feb 12, 2002    

Official papers for Bush, Giuliani find refuge in private archives

  • Archivists are worried that placing the records of the former Texas governor and former New York mayor into private hands might keep important documents from public view.

While open government advocates spar with the White House over the records of former President Ronald Reagan, similar records battles are developing in Texas and New York City, where former leaders placed their official documents in the trust of private hands.

In Texas, President Bush placed more than 1,800 boxes of documents from his years as that state’s governor into the care of his father’s presidential library at Texas A&M University instead of with the state archives. In New York City, colleagues of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani struck a deal with the city that puts the mayoral records under the control of the Rudolph W. Giuliani Center for Urban Affairs.

Archivists in both locales fear that private placement efforts will effectively circumvent public information laws.

In some ways, the two episodes mirror the White House’s effort to rewrite procedures under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which mandates the release of most of a former president’s records 12 years after he leaves office. A lawsuit is pending concerning that executive order, which Bush issued Nov. 1.

But it is unclear how Texas and New York state laws govern the preservation of records from their former leaders.

The Texas Legislature in 1997 authorized governors, with the consultation of state archivists, to place records into a repository other than the state archives. The Texas State Library and Archives houses the official papers of every Texan governor before Bush, including the first one, James Pinckney who served from 1846 to 1847.

Bush secured a one-page agreement on Dec. 19 to place his records in the presidential library. But the Bush library and state archivists have not worked out the details of the transfer. State Attorney General John Cornyn is expected to offer a ruling on the matter by May 20.

Archivists worry about access to the records because the George W. Bush Presidential Library, unlike the state archives, does not fall under the auspices of the Texas Public Information Act.

In New York City, a 12-page agreement signed on Dec. 24 by George Rios, the city’s records commissioner, and officials with the Giuliani Center gives the center considerable control over the former mayor’s records.

The deal gives Giuliani veto power over the release of any records. The agreement, in part, reads: “Whenever Rudolph W. Giuliani has a personal interest or right in a document separate and apart from the interests and rights of the city, his approval shall be required before any such document may be released or disclosed to the public.”

PT

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