Updated 04/22/2011 09:42 AM
More city emails emerge as county attorney's deadline approaches
To view our videos, you need to
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.
Then come back here and refresh the page.
The Austin City Council released thousands of pages of emails Thursday just 24 hours before a deadline set by county attorney David Escamilla.
Mayor Lee Leffingwell and all six council members are currently under investigation by Escamilla for possible violations of the Texas Public Information Act as well as the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Attorneys requested that council members fully disclose any emails, text messages and any other forms of communication that contain communications regarding city business before Friday’s deadline.
The latest release of internal city emails comes after several media outlets, including YNN, requested the documents through the Freedom of Information Act.
In January, Austinite Brian Rodgers accused council members of conducting city business outside of public view.
Following up on Rodgers' complaint, an investigative journalist with The Austin Bulldog began to file FOIA requests looking for city wrongdoing.
Attorneys withThe Bulldog were not satisfied with the responses to their requests, and filed a rare civil complaint with Escamilla, stating that the council was failing to comply with the Texas Public Information Act.
State law requires the county attorney’s office to investigate that complaint to determine if the city is in violation of the law.
Escamilla has until the end of the day Friday to make that decision.
In the latest batch of emails, an August 2010 exchange between Council Member Randi Shade and City Manager Marc Ott shines light on the tension between city leaders regarding the controversial shooting of Nathaniel Sanders.
In the email, Shade writes that Ott misunderstood what he called a “dramatic question” she had regarding the shooting.
Sanders, 18, was shot and killed by Austin Police Officer Leonardo Quintana in May of 2009. A review by the independent research firm KeyPoint Government Solutions found that Quintana’s use of force in the shooting was “reckless.” The Austin Police Department ruled that Quintana’s actions were justified.
Although the specifics of the question are not clear, Shade writes:
“My question was about what you, Chief McDonald and Chief Acevedo knew and when you knew it with respect to the Quintana termination hearing and the issues related to that hearing… I can’t help feeling the way I am guessing Leffingwell felt when he gave you his KeyPoint questions and the response turned into a legal department response rather than a Marc response.”
Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez told YNN Thursday that the council’s recent public scrutiny has changed the way he keeps email records of his work as a city leader.
"What it has done is it’s created this massive archiving system and records-management system in my office that we all comply with and that we don't delete any emails, sent, received, whatever, it all stays in the system,” he said.
City attorney Randy Leavitt said he believes the council has met the requirements of state law, and will satisfy Escamilla’s inquiry.
"We're waiting on them to get back with us on a decision, but we feel we certainly have been in compliance with the law,” he said. “I don't think there is any chance that we have drug our feet or have been dilatory in our tactics to release this stuff."
If Escamilla believes the council was in violation of the Texas Public Information Act, he must file a lawsuit against the city on behalf of the State of Texas to force the city leaders to be in compliance with the law.
“Today the city of Austin released additional emails responsive to various PIA requests. The city’s law department asked the Communication and Technology Management staff to conduct a forensic search of the city’s servers to look for emails that might not have been readily available to council members and council staff. This inclusive examination by CTM produced additional responsive information. It largely contains items such as: previously released emails with attachments now included, correspondence that had been electronically archived, or emails that were stored in electronic files to which employees performing the initial search did not have ready access. The bulk of the email exchanges have been released previously, in a slightly different configuration.”