KTRK wins another round in email fight; Sheriff undeterred
KTRK-13's Christine Dobbyn reports that the local ABC affiliate won another legal battle today in its effort to obtain emails from the Sheriff's Department:
13 Undercover asked for thousands of deleted emails from Sheriff Tommy Thomas. Now, after weeks of fighting for our legal right to see those emails, we will finally get the chance.
The ruling out of the 281st District Court says the sheriff's department email policy put into place on January 9 violates state law, and the judge says they cannot ever enact a policy like this one again.
The email policy was ordered in place by the sheriff's department on January 9 -- two days after 13 Undercover reporter Wayne Dolcefino interviewed Sheriff Thomas as part of multiple investigative reports. The policy ordered all departmental emails more than 14 days old be deleted.
The ruling says the sheriff's department email policy violated state law and tells the department they can never enact a policy like this one again. Deputies must make all the emails available to Dolcefino within two weeks, and the department must pay Wayne's attorneys fees. That means the sheriff's department's decision to fight the original request will cost taxpayers $30,000.
That seems like great news for the public. Given the energy and expense involved in the fight to withhold the public's information, the emails could be very interesting.
The Sheriff's Department may not be done spending your money to withhold your information, however:
First Assistant County Attorney John Barnhill told Eyewitness News, "We've spoken with the Harris County Sheriff's Department and Sheriff Tommy Thomas has requested that we file an appeal in this case on his behalf. Accordingly we will file a notice of appeal."
At what point can some grownup in Harris County government insist to Sheriff Thomas that he's wasted enough of the public's money, and that it's time to turn over the public's information?
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