Activist complaint leads to city council controversy
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Nearly two months ago, Austinite Brian Rodgers accused the Austin City Council of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Now, that complaint has opened the flood gates to open records requests, a county attorney investigation and a district court lawsuit.
Mayor Lee Leffingwell and several members of the city council have since hired defense attorneys and could be bracing for much more.
While the controversy started with Rodgers’ compliant, he said all he wants is for city business to operate in the light of day.
"If it's the city's business, it's the public’s business and we have a right to know," he said. "They say it's the cover up that kills you.”
According to sources, County Attorney David Escamilla has at least six investigators inside his office, combing though mounds of emails and other documents in search of evidence that the council violated the Texas Open Meetings Act or the Texas Public Information Act.
"If they had said, 'You know what? We made a lot of mistakes early on and we sincerely didn't know this was going to happen,' and they opened their books and showed us all the emails and, you know, changed policy,” he said. “Instead, it's just digging in their heels, digging in their heels, playing dumb and hiding behind lawyers and that's going to come back and bite them if it hasn't already."
Attorneys representing individual council members said off the record that subpoenas are expected to hit city hall and possible grand jury involvement is not out of the question.
Rodgers believes there is enough evidence to suggest criminal charges could be on the horizon.
"There's been a lot of deletion of emails. There's been destruction of government records advocated by certain staffers, so I don't have high hopes for what we finally see of what actually happened," he said.
The Travis County District Attorney’s white collar unit is offering the use of their computer forensic experts as needed for the county attorney's investigation.