KATY (FOX 26) - More than 3 months after FOX 26 News first sought documents from the Katy Independent School District through a public information request, the station is still waiting for the documents. Fulfillment dates communicated by the school district have come and gone. Transparency at Katy ISD is an issue, and that's what sparked FOX 26's inquiry.
In January, the school board was pulling back on transparency, deciding to discontinue video recordings of the monthly public work study meetings held by the board of trustees. For years, both the work study meeting and the main meeting were recorded and posted on the district's web site. But recording was to stop.
It came at the same time that the school board decided it would move the public comment section of the main meeting to the work study meeting. Even though the school board resumed recording work study meetings in February, FOX 26 had already submitted a freedom of information request to find out if those decisions were made together, with intent to keep public critique from being available on the internet.
At first, our request was broad, but we modified it to ask for the emails of School Board President Charles Griffin for a 3-week period in January. On May 5, the request still had not been fulfilled.
"In this case they are using the law offensively against you," FOX 26 senior legal analyst told us on Thursday.
Tritico says the Public Information Act, as it is called in Texas, gives governments 10 days to turn over documents, or request an opinion from the attorney general whether or not they have to for privacy concerns. But Tritico says Katy ISD made use of the law's exceptions.
"They ask you, "Do you want to narrow the scope?' That gives them additional time," Tritico says. "Then they ask you, 'Do you want to pay all this money?' That gives them additional time."
Recognizing justifiable delays, FOX 26 didn't start pressing Katy ISD for the documents until ten working days after paying $262.70 for the request on April 4.
Not including the days the district was closed because of the flood, as of May 5, it has been 18 working days. There has been communication from the district with promises of fulfillment by certain times that have not come to pass.
"It's clear to me that they are playing games with you because they want to delay this document release," Tritico said, after reading through all the correspondence between the station and the school district.
Two days from this date, May 7, there is a school board election in Katy. Joe Adams is the only board member with an opponent. That opponent is George Scott.
"It just seems that over the last year to 18 months, or 2 years maybe, Katy ISD has become just extremely arrogant and contemptuous of the public's right to know," Scott told FOX 26 on Thursday.
Scott says he doesn't think the delay has anything to do with the election, but he says the district should be transparent with actions and not words. He wants to serve on the board for a number of reasons.
"My platform is that we have to support teachers, respect parents, and protect taxpayers," Scott said.
On Thursday morning, FOX 26 asked Katy ISD if something was being hidden from public view that the district felt might impact the election. It responded with a statement giving vague hope that the documents might be available today.
The school district added, if FOX 26 felt the district was violating the law, we could complain to the Texas Attorney General's office. FOX 26 has decided to do just that.