The Harris County Sheriff’s Office is claiming exemption from the Texas Public Information Act after deleting hundreds of thousands of e-mail messages from employees’ computers.
The mass deletion began two days after KTRK (Channel 13) aired an interview regarding Sheriff Tommy Thomas’s payment to a contractor for redesigning of the sheriff’s weekend home.
The station was able to halt the deletions through an injunction against the Sheriff’s Office, and requested copies of the deleted e-mail messages (erased from employees’ inboxes from Jan.12 – Jan. 19), which are still available from backup files. The Sheriff’s Office asserts that the e-mail messages are no longer public information, citing prior rulings by the Texas attorney general.
The station’s attorney holds that the rulings cannot be applied in all cases. He argues that the Public Information Act and local municipal policy are in favor of the station.
State District Judge David Bernal said written briefs from both sides must be submitted by Friday.