So after I published those HCC Trustee campaign finance reports, I got an email from Jennifer Peebles of Texas Watchdog, who asked me if I had redacted the files to hide the mailing addresses of the trustees and their donors. I said no, I had uploaded exactly what they gave me. Turns out they should have left the trustees’ addresses in there.
A public entity such as HCC may redact home addresses of its elected officials and employees only if those officials or employees requested that in writing within 14 days of taking office, [Tom Gregor, a Houston lawyer who provides legal advice for the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas in Austin] said.
Home addresses for candidates for public office are important, among other reasons, to ensure they live at a residence that qualifies them to run.
“It sounds like they redacted everybody without putting too much thought into it,” said Joel White, an Austin-based lawyer who also provides legal advice for the FOI Foundation of Texas.
Elected public officials and public employees also cannot choose to withhold their home addresses after a public records request for that information, is submitted, White said.
In HCC’s case, “we don’t know if they made that election or not,” White said.
As I said in the story, I was given the docs on a thumb drive, but was not told that they had been altered in any way. I did not know about the legal issues until Peebles and subsequently reporter Mike Cronin mentioned it to me, but had I been told that some data had been hidden I would have asked why. I have to say, if HCC was like the city of Houston where candidates generally fill out the forms electronically and they get posted to a public webpage, this sort of issue would not come up. As I noted before, Trustee Richard Schechter has taken up the issue of at least getting the reports posted on the HCC webpage. I guess this is one more detail that will need to be ironed out first.
On a side note, the original reason Peebles had contacted me was to tell me that she had managed to greatly shrink the size of the PDFs that I had in Adobe Pro. She very generously sent me smaller versions of each file that was too big to be previewed in Google Docs. I have uploaded these smaller files and updated the post and the 2011 Election page to display them. My sincere thanks to Jennifer Peebles for the assist.