What was ultimately released was unresponsive to my request, included only 15 text messages, and was redacted so much it looked like a CIA document from the Cold War that was just recently declassified.
This release crystalizes what is wrong with the people who demand "transparency" from their colleagues but clearly don't practice what they preach.
This might take awhile so walk with me...
The operative part of my request is as follows:
"...Provide any and all communications and accompanying records of text messages on a public or private electronic communication device, between Representative Michiel Noe, Dora Oaxaca, Camilo Jimenez, and Representative Acosta pertaining to any and all city business, to include the Metropolitan Planning Organization and subcommittee work between February 25, 2015 and February 25, 2016."
Pretty clear right?
The city gave me a document along with my request that not only quotes my request, but mentions that have removed personal information "from the enclosed information we are providing to you".
In other words, they are redacting phone numbers. Which I might add underscores the fact that Acosta's item today is completely unnecessary.
And that is one of the things that is very interesting to me. Here's what I mean:
As you can see, there is a hand-written note in the margin that says "All redactions are 'Not Responsive'".
But the city's letter to me only mentions the redaction of phone numbers. Take note of the two arrows that are near the bottom. It appears that two different methods have been used to redact information. The cell phone number appears to have been redacted via computer. It is more uniform and is a darker shade of black. The other parts that are redacted appear to have been redacted by a magic marker and a ruler.
Now in the words of 90's rap artists Onyx, "But, but, but wait it gets worse!"
The document, which you can read in its entirety by clicking on this link, is unresponsive to my request. First of all, I requested text messages from 4 people having to do with any and all city business, to include the MPO.
The City gave me a total of 15 messages.
Do they really expect me to believe that 4 people exchanged text messages having to do with any and all city business to include the MPO only 15 times in an entire year? How many times have you exchanged text messages with your boss, subordinates, or colleagues just today?
And did I mention the fact that the messages are ONLY about the MPO?
Where are the messages between the boss and staff having to do with stuff like, Hey boss, I got a call from a constituent that would like a pot hole fixed, or Hey staffer, can you set up a meeting with Scrooge McDuck so we can talk about Launch Pad McQuack landing is plane on Scrooge's lawn instead of the airport?
Yeah, its noticeably absent.
But hey, maybe its all that stuff was actually redacted.
Seriously, what the hell are they hiding here? This pic also shows the different forms of redaction again.
I obviously have major issues with this release and the veracity of it, but let me show you what undermines my faith in the document released to me the most.
Its this text message on the second-to-the-last page.
Apparently Acosta and Noe found a way to retrieve text messages from the FUTURE!
Don't believe me? Check out the date.
This release is also indicative of the fact that the very people who pound their chest and demand transparency from their colleagues release a document that in most places has more redacted information than actual released information.
When it was Ordaz that went through an ORR for text messages the only thing that was redacted was phone numbers. This document has a lot of stuff that was redacted. My question for the City Attorney is why are there two different forms of redaction in the same document?
This is important because in the last city council meeting a rep asked Firth if they could redact information themselves if there were concerned about personal information getting out. Firth indicated that they couldn't because it would get into reps without holding information from the public.
It begs the question, was the document partially redacted for content before it was given to the city attorney's office? If so, how does that square with the legal advice given in open session last week?
And why such a different way of redacting information? That doesn't make any sense.
Noe was asked during the press gaggle about why I was given such little information and he indicated that I only asked for information relating to the MPO. As you can see above, that is a lie. He produced an email from the City Attorneys Office that says (I didn't see it) that based on my response to their request for clarification letter, that I had indicated I only wanted text messages related to the MPO.
That isn't even what their clarification letter to me even asked. Here is the letter, just click here.
This is what I responded, and as you can see at no point do I limit my request to just text relating to the MPO.
The bottom line here is that taking one look at the documents that were released to me shows what they really mean by "transparency".
This release is a reflection of the systemic problem the City of El Paso has not only with Open Record Requests, but also with transparency as a whole.
But come on, be honest... you just KNEW they were going to screw this up right?