SAPD Issues Thousands of Tickets for Homelessness

SAPD Issues Thousands of Tickets for Homelessness

News: Data and records obtained by the Current show that between January 1, 2013, and early October of this year the San Antonio... By Alexa Garcia-Ditta and Elaine Wolff 10/22/2014
6 Sinfully Good Grilled Cheese Sandwiches in SA

6 Sinfully Good Grilled Cheese Sandwiches in SA

Food & Drink: Cheesy Jane’s. Multiple locations, If the name is any indicator, this San Antonio staple doesn’t mess around when it comes to... By Tommie Ethington 10/22/2014
A Closer Look: The ins and outs of a few important races

A Closer Look: The ins and outs of a few important races

News: For more than a year now gubernatorial candidates Wendy Davis and Greg Abbott have dominated airwaves and secured way... By Mark Reagan 10/22/2014
‘Walking the Camino’ Explores a Treacherous Trek Through Spain

‘Walking the Camino’ Explores a Treacherous Trek Through Spain

Screens: In the Middle Ages, pilgrims walked the 500-mile El Camino de Santiago de Compostela as a pilgrimage to the tomb of Apostle St. James. It was an... By Stephen James Ross 10/22/2014
Failure Is Not an Option: George Lopez returns to SA

Failure Is Not an Option: George Lopez returns to SA

Arts & Culture: It is evident comedian George Lopez is still a little sensitive about the on-again, off-again relationship he’s had with television. Whatever the... By Kiko Martínez 10/22/2014

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email


Civil rights group complains of exorbitant charging for records at the Bexar County jail

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Inside the Bexar County Jail.

At 8 p.m. on August 21, 2012, Thomas Reed Taylor turned himself in to the Bexar County jail, opting for time served on outstanding drunk driving and misdemeanor drug possession warrants in lieu of fines he couldn't pay. Guards found him dead in his cell six hours after entering the jail.

Since his death, Taylor's family and jail reform activists have demanded the Bexar County Sheriff's Office explain the circumstances surrounding the death — Bexar County got notice last month of a pending lawsuit from Taylor's family. Last October, a week before participating in a small rally with Taylor's family on the local courthouse steps, Diana Claitor sent out a simple records request asking the sheriff's office for a list of inmates processed and guards on duty in the hours surrounding Taylor's short, deadly stint at the jail. Claitor was told she'd have to pay $920 before the office lifted a finger on the request.

"The whole point of getting this information was to help a family find out what happened to their son in the last hours of his life," Claitor, who heads the nonprofit reform-minded Texas Jail Project, told the Current. "Essentially, it felt like a way of blocking the release of this information."

Claitor tried to amend her request, seeking a lower cost estimate. Former sheriff Amadeo Ortiz was defeated in the Nov. 4 election. Claitor heard nothing back regarding her request during Ortiz's final weeks in office.

"They basically ignored her," said Brian McGiverin, an attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project. After meeting with Claitor, McGiverin sent an email to the sheriff's office on Dec. 30 threatening to sue. The office responded on New Year's Eve, amending the cost for Claitor's request down to $784, claiming that drawing up the list of inmates alone would require 20 hours of "programming" time.

McGiverin responded that the new cost estimate was "totally beyond the realm of good faith."

"This happens with alarming regularity," said Joe Larsen, a board member with the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and a Houston-based First Amendment lawyer who regularly works with media outlets on public records fights. "This is one of the most frequent means deployed by government bodies to discourage requesters from pursuing public records."

Larsen represented the Dallas Morning News when the daily requested electronic check registers from the University of Texas Southwest Medical Center. "My client was quoted in the upper six figures for that information," he said. "Charging an excessive price is the functional equivalent of refusing to release information at all."

The Texas Administrative Code outlines how and when government bodies can charge to recoup costs for providing public records –– like charges for copies or time spent filling the request. Larsen says that in his experience agencies often over-estimate the time it takes to redact non-public information from government records, therefore charging a higher fee. The law outlines an hourly charge for "programming" at $28.50 an hour.

Recently in News
We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus