The City of Hutto is one of the most litigious in the state when it comes to suing the Texas Attorney General’s Office to keep the public from accessing its records, KXAN reported.
Since 2015, the city has filed 17 such lawsuits against the AG’s office. That’s 15 more than Austin has filed and just three fewer than Dallas, the TV station reported.
The lawsuits come after taxpayers file requests to view public records under the state’s open records law and city officials ask the AG’s ruling for a ruling on whether they must turn over the documents. If officials don’t like the AG’s opinion, they sue to try to keep the records sealed.
Hutto resident Robin Sutton said the lack of transparency “makes no sense.”
“It means they’re hiding something,” Sutton told KXAN.
In an attempt to determine how much those lawsuits are costing Hutto taxpayers, the TV station requested records showing the billing and contracts between the city and its law firm, McGinnis Lochridge. But Hutto officials are requesting $840 to see those records: 30 emails containing the monthly invoices from the law firm, KXAN reported.
The TV station obtained a bill by the law firm for March 2017 that showed it was paid $65,401 by the city, including $34,788 in a category marked “Public Information Act.”
Hutto Mayor Doug Gaul said he wasn’t aware of the quantity of lawsuits the city had filed in the past four years trying to keep records sealed.
“To be honest, I don’t know how many we’ve done. That all goes through the city secretary’s office and handled legally, follows the legal laws of the State of Texas,” Gaul told KXAN after the Dec. 5 council meeting.
The TV station noted that some of the lawsuits attempted to prevent the release of emails and text messages sent and received by Gaul’s city email account and taxpayer-funded cell phone.