‘Dallas Morning News’ Sues City Over Access to Emails

By: E&P Staff

The Dallas Morning News reported today that the paper is suing the city of Dallas. The lawsuit, which was filed July 14, comes as a result of the city?s refusal to promptly release e-mails pertinent to the housing and finances of oil magnate Ray Hunt.

The newspaper had filed two public information requests late last year after the City Council passed a $6.3 million tax abatement for a new corporate headquarters for Hunt Consolidated. The abatement for Hunt?s company was controversial and was objected to by Dellas mayor Laura Miller.

The two staffers involved in this case are City Hall correspondent Dave Levinthal and reporter Reese Dunklin. Levinthal had requested all e-mails sent and received by City Manager Mary Suhm, Mayor Miller, and several economic development officials in November. Dunklin followed up the request in December, asking to review all e-mails sent and received by Mayor Miller, City Housing Director Jerry Killingsworth, and their staffs. Both requests were referred to the state attorney general?s office after the city ruled that a number of exemptions to the Texas Public Information Act applied to this case.

Levinthal and Dunklin were then told by the attorney general?s office that the release of such e-mails would interfere with an ongoing FBI investigation that was looking into possible corruption in the Dallas city government. Even though the attorney general?s office eventually ruled in January and February that some e-mails could be released while others would remain withheld, the newspaper still did not receive satisfactory results.

In March, the paper had its attorney, Paul Watler, send City Attorney Tom Perkins a letter requesting the records; the response was that the retrieval of the e-mails was ?time-consuming? and ?labor-intensive? and would therefore take awhile.

In all, the Dallas Morning News was required to pay a $3,500 deposit for the records, most of which the paper has still not received.

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