Just before Christmas I made an Open Records Request to follow up on a rumor I had heard from more than one party. MISD wanted to withhold the information from me. I sent an email to the AG’s office that is reproduced below. They responded that they did not accept emails, so I needed to send a letter. I didn’t do that. I got my point across and was expecting the AG to side with MISD. You see, Ken Paxton has ties to just about every mover and shaker in Collin County and McKinney.
However, I received a letter from the AG’s office yesterday. They sided with me and against MISD.
So now I’m waiting to see what I get from MISD.
Meanwhile, here is my email to the AG:
Dear Ken Paxton:
I have always believed that everything is a rumor until one can find proof – even if you hear the same rumor from multiple credible people over a relatively long time span. Even though the law does not allow a local government to ask a PIA requester the purpose of the request, I would like for you to know the reason behind my ORR that has now become the subject of a letter to you. It is also important to me that I explain how I see this as a dilemma for me. Equally important, perhaps more so, I think your colleagues have created a dilemma for you.
The Rumor. I have heard from more than once source that several years ago (early 2000s) a city official passed by a house being built for McKinney ISD Assistant Superintendent Wyndol Fry. Supposedly there was an abundance of what appeared to be vehicles and equipment owned by Pogue Construction Company that has done a massive amount of work for MISD while Mr. Fry was over facilities. A person made this observation known to the MISD school superintendent at the time (I am not sure of his name). The superintendent confronted Mr. Fry, the rumor goes, and Mr. Fry abruptly resigned immediately or a few days later.
My Dilemma. A Concerned Taxpayer, me, hears the rumor and wonders if this incident and set of events was ever made known to the public? So, I search newspapers and MISD online records the best I can and find no reference to the departure of Mr. Fry. So, I think how strange for a well tenured, highly respected and highly visible school official abruptly leaves and there is no record of it. Or at least I cannot find a record.
So I did what the law provides for interested taxpayers to seek answers to such questions. I made an Open Records Request. I was fully expecting a set of documents to help me understand facts so that there would be no rumor involved. If you will simply look at my ORR, it is quite basic. And it is in line with hundreds of newspapers I scan through daily looking for stories that apply to local government officials in the only field I have worked in for 43 years. You know very well the news media ask these questions as well as bloggers and analysts like me.
Your Dilemma. Hopefully you can see now why I was blown away when I received a copy of the attached letter sent to me by the MISD attorneys Abernathy Roeder Boyd & Hullett, PC. The letter is to you, and is the typical punt to the AG so somebody can say The Devil Made Us release these documents. I say typical because it is a well-used strategy here in your homeland – Collin County.
What is not typical is that the letter asserts that MISD documents and information are excepted from disclosure by Sections 552.101 through Section 552.156 of the PIA! See: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.552.htm.
My goodness! How did my basic ORR end up covering the entirety of all those sections?
Our Dilemma. I realize you haven’t ruled yet, but this response from the law firm fires my imagination as to what is behind this letter to you?
Is it a true cover-up? I was told my some knowledgeable people in McKinney that this was exactly what was going to happen. That the powers in McKinney would not want this information to come out.
And who are the powers? Well, this particular law firm and this particular construction firm are both respected and powerful in Collin County. In fact, as I have reviewed some information that reaches back several years, there are many prominent names that frequently circulate through all kinds of government committee appointments, elections, land purchases and zoning deals. And your name, sir, is quite prominent, too. So I have to wonder, are they kicking this ORR to you already knowing the answer you are going to give your former and perhaps even current colleagues?
I also wonder if this ORR and the resulting letter was made known to the current superintendent and MISD board members? And if not, is there a don’t ask-don’t tell policy between the MISD board and this law firm. I know this question is not for you to answer, so that is the reason I am copying those folks.
And how in the world did the McKinney media not find this quick departure of Mr. Fry intriguing and probe into it at the time? Not for you to answer but I’m sure you know the answer that I have heard so many times. Almost non-existent. Lazy. And maybe even not too smart. I’ve heard stories of reporters sitting in front of a gold mine of marginally or wholly questionable decisions and it not even catching their attention. So, I’m copying a few of them.
In closing, I’m just a taxpayer wanting to understand if a rumor is true. I suspect it is and I suspect there is a well-known set of facts. Boards and superintendents turn over but there is usually a huge bundle of institutional knowledge in their offices and those of personnel administrators and attorneys.
But it is now in your court, Mr. Paxton. I’m eagerly awaiting your answer.
I assume that law firms do what their clients tell them to do. The ORR I didn’t send to MISD but still might is how many ORRs automatically go to the AG as routine responses vs or answered as requested?
It was interesting to note the bond presentation to the City of McKinney City Council this week. Mostly softball questions. The only question that came close to being deep was about some statements in a Facebook page. Not mine. The Superintendent did the typical blow off to the question. When pressed harder, he came up with a bureaucratic response that tried to evade the question. The MISD sheep, the citizens, are accustomed to being told only what MISD staffers think they need to know.
I am very interested in MISD’s next move. I will keep you posted. LFM