Texas government corruption
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Perry's office has stopped deleting e-mails every seven days as a result of Washburn's efforts. Many have said that the policy is bad for transparency, including the Texas Freedom of Information Foundation. Washburn has states he's going to attempt to archive one years worth of the governor's e-mails, but must raise over $62,000 to do it.
However, after the first weeks of requests in 2011, the price for Perry's e-mails have increased dramatically. In 2007 it took 31.5 man hours to fulfill a request for a weeks worth of e-mails. The cost totalled to $568. In 2011, the request stated it would take 109 man hours to complete and would cost a total of $2,304.'
John Washburn, a 45-year-old computer software tester from Wisconsin, was disgusted. He found Governor Perry's policy of deleting nearly all of his emails every seven days to be "obnoxiously short," and was not about to stand for it.
In response to the policy, Washburn developed a computer program that requests all emails sent to and from the Governor's office every four days. The first batch yielded over 8,000 emails, which Washburn promptly put up online.
HOUSTON, Texas: The cost of obtaining public information could go up in Texas if some officials and bureaucrats have their way in the 82nd legislative session which starts on Tuesday. The Houston Independent School District (HISD) along is asking lawmakers to pass legislation that would allow governments to charge citizens for public records requests before they actually deliver the requested documents. "The Houston district also wants the ability to ignore requests from anyone who still owes money from a previous records request," reports Texas Watchdog. A spokesperson for HISD stated they have experienced an increase in public information requests and that the "district should be adequately compensated to reflect the time and resources we spend on complying with these requests."
Transparency advocates aren't buying it. Keith Elkins, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, says that "there are fair and reasonable cost allowances already on the books." Current Texas public information laws require government offices to provide requestors with an itemized statement of charges for any costs over $40. The law also allows for government offices to charge for materials such as CDs and DVDs, as well as for the labor incurred while gathering the requested materials.
It is unclear from the wording of HISD's legislative agenda exactly what they want to change or how much they seek to increase their fees. The agenda states:
“Allow districts to charge the actual costs for the production of all materials, including the recovery of actual costs of personnel time, to comply with open records requests. Districts should be able to require actual payment of costs prior to compliance and failure to pay after committing to pay relieves districts of any obligation to comply with additional open records requests made by that entity until past balances are paid.”
The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas's director Keith Elkin notes that government bodies have sought to change public information law in a similar fashion in the past. “The bill is worded slightly differently each time, but the bottom line is the same: They want to make a profit from the sale of electronic copies of their records to the public.” 
Whether or not government bodies can hike their prices for complying with the Texas Public Information Act will be for legislators to decide in the coming session. Until then Texans can continue accessing their government at the old price.
"The Houston city government could be in a pickle over the city airport system’s work overseas, building and running airports in Latin America and elsewhere.
But the two most obvious solutions — giving City Hall a bigger hand in directing those foreign affairs, or pulling the plug on them all together — could put the city in an even bigger pickle.
Maybe even a whole pickle jar."
The Austin American-Statesman requested a copy of a $4.5 million contract from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund to an Austin company reportedly founded by David Nance, a donor to and friend of newly re-elected Rick Perry. The governor’s office denied the request, saying it believed the contract was not public under several exceptions to the Texas Public Information Act. Perry has requested an attorney general’s opinion on how he should approach the request for information.
The governor’s office has changed position in a matter of months. The Dallas Morning News made a similar request under the Texas Public Information Act in August 2010 and received a copy of the contract that the American-Statesman requested.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is purchasing $8.2 million worth of properties that are obstructing highway development in El Paso. The El Paso Times has filed a public records request for the property owners names, but TxDOT claimed an exemption under the Texas Public Information Act which states that the department does not have to disclose data for ongoing sales.
Reporters believe this is a weak claim because " the properties' location is only protected up to a point and can't be withheld after "the public announcement of the project."
Christina Alvarado, an assistant state attorney general has ruled that, according to guidelines for the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, recipients of the stimulus funds for the weatherization program will not be disclosed.
According to Texas Watchdog, "Alvarado said the Department of Energy gets its authority to keep secret who benefits from the taxpayer-financed program from guidelines included in the Energy Conservation and Production Act."
Texas Watchdog submitted the public records request after finding out that one of the contracting companies, Sheltering Arms Senior Services of Houston, received the worst inspection report in the state.
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Plano, TX A Texas judge this past week agreed with the Plano Economic Development Board (PEDB) and issued a restraining order against a local citizen, Jack Lagos, who had submitted repeated records requests to the Board over the past year. The restraining order prevents Lagos from coming within 500 feet of the Development Board's offices but does not restrict his ability to submit records request to other state and local agencies. 
The Texas Legislative Budget Board's budget plan is available online in a very large PDF document, but this being the only form of the budget making examining the budget difficult. It is not in a machine-readable format nor is it open for programming applications by the public.
The LBJ School has taken on a project to make the budget as interactive and informative as possible. The school has put the President’s budge as well as the state level. They have included of the appropriations process and specific budget mark-ups on the budget project.
Some team members who have worked the Texas side of the project focused on this proposed legislation. Other members built support from other state officials and interest groups.
The proposal for ethics reform comes in response to recent political corruption in the city council. A few weeks ago, Don Hill, a former city council member, was convicted for extortion and bribery. While serving on the council, Hill extorted real-estate developers. He threatened them that he would not grant approval of their zoning permits unless he received money from them. On many occasions, Hill successfully employed this extortion scheme to secure large sums of money from real estate developers .
The proposed ethics reform is designed to prevent other city council members from engaging in the sort of political corruption for which Don Hill was convicted. Specifically, the proposed ethics reform would limit a city council's member control over permit granting. As it currently stands, a single city council member has great control over any permit granting in his district .
Don Hill, his associates, and his wife were convicted by a jury who had strong evidence against them. In the case, two real-estate developers testified against Hill. Both of the real-estate developers said they pursued city zoning approval, so that they could develop low-end housing in Hill's district. They said Hill indicated to them that he would not approve of their zoning permits unless he received payment .
In addition to the testimonies, the prosecution presented audio and video evidence that was collected by the FBI. In one conversation between Hill and his associate, his associate told Hill to delay a vote over zoning permits, allowing the associate more time to shake-down a developer. In another instance, photos show Hill receiving $10,000 from an associate who had, shortly before, received $20,000 from a real-estate developer .
Besides extorting money, Hill also secured questionable consulting contracts. His wife, for example, had a $14,000 per month consulting contract for her involvement in community development projects.
"The nonprofit agency through which the Houston Airport System builds and runs airports in other countries has “systemic problems” and could hurt the city’s bond rating, the city’s chief financial officer said Monday — an issue that could make it more costly for the city to borrow money."
"When people in Houston have problems with electric utilities, the person to whom they often turn is state Rep. Sylvester Turner, who has frequently criticized power providers. But Turner, a lawyer, is on retainer for CenterPoint. He discloses that fact on his annual state ethics form. The Democratic House member from Houston says it's not a conflict of interest."
"La Porte Councilman Howard Ebow traveled more than any other La Porte council member over the past three years, including a trip to Washington just two months before he left office. Ebow says the trip was still valuable for the people of La Porte."
Did U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison cross an ethical line by supporting a rail line that is a payday for her husband?
"In 2007, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison boasted how she helped secure $700 million in federal funding to expand a mass transit line in Dallas. But here’s what she forgot to tell you: The law firm of her husband, Ray Hutchison, worked on the bond financing for the same project, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in hourly fees."
"The board that runs Houston's transit agency moves in lopsided lockstep, with only a handful of votes that weren't unanimous since October 2006. But Metro's board members say that's because any disagreements are worked out beforehand."
"The Houston mayor and City Council members' 2009 personal financial disclosures are available at Texas Watchdog via an interactive map. Learn more about how your elected officials make their money by checking out these disclosures."
The Texas Watchdog spent a week attempting to obtain these open records, but still does not know when the records can be obtained. The fee for these open records is $1 per page, which seems unreasoable for open records.
A local news company, News 4 WOAI, followed an investigation trail leading to the discovery that the $139,000 of taxpayer money went to a trip to China for the School of Excellence in Education's school band.
The Texas Education Agency found these numbers after an audit revealing the trip that the board never approved. The T.E.A. says the school should be reimbursed.
There have been conflicting reports as to who is in charge of the renovation project. Most recently, House Accountant Steve Adrian said that it is a "joint project" between the House and the Texas State Preservation Board, and that "no particular person" initiated the idea. However, the Preservation Board, who must "approve all changes to the buildings and their grounds," has not met since February 1, 2007.
Last month, a spokesperson for House Speaker Tom Craddick said that the project was coordinated by the House Administration Committee, chaired by Rep. Tony Goolsby, but his name does not appear anywhere in the records released to AP.
Mayor Green of Duncanville, Texas had Councilman Paul Ford arrested for opposition to wasteful spending on red light cameras. 
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