A story on KTSM last night broke down a major problem that the City of El Paso has with city representatives having to do with text messaging. They may have actually busted them in the infamous "read and delete" operation.
Click this link to watch the story. The first part of the story talks about something that should infuriate everyone - lack of transparency. And they weren't the only station to catch it. KFOX also caught on to something that should be the biggest issue this community - your city electeds are doing business on their cell phones and deleting the messages to keep them from the public.
In separate interviews with separate stations Rep Tolbert and Rep Niland all but admitted to deleting text messages. Rep Tolbert actually admitted to it. As if he didn't have enough election problems, now he has this issue to explain to voters. And if memory serves, Tolbert promised an audit of the open records function and never delivered. The irony of the fact that he's conducting city business via Facebook Messenger and deleted text messages looks really, really, really bad.
But...here's what the media and public should be demanding from their elected leaders. They should put them on the spot. Ask them all to use software to recover the messages. It exists. They know it does. They should use the software to recover their messages and show the community they are transparent.
So they have the means to do so. If they choose not to, then that tells you all you need to know about their integrity. It also tells you they aren't smart enough to learn from the past.
The stories also shed light on something even more disappointing about city government - the fact that the city attorneys office doesn't appear equipped to handle open record requests properly. Remember when the I made an open records request from Noe and Acosta's office about text messages? I got back records that were redacted like a classified Cold War document. It had been redacted by a computer and by hand. When I inquired why, it was because the city reps office had done the redacting, not the City Attorney's office. Big no-no.
Now media is making requests and some records are being released to stations and others aren't, but when another outlet makes a similar request, the records that weren't provided to the first station seem to be provided to another. Clearly, someone doesn't know what they are doing.
They mayor says he turns over everything but the city attorneys office doesn't give it to the media, which means either the mayor isn't accurate, or the city is withholding documents that are releasable.
If the media can't reliably have access to public documents, how can the public reliably believe that their government is being open and transparent?