It’s a red-meat issue, but it feeds on chicken.
San Antonio’s decision to exclude Chick-fil-A from its airport continues to resound in political circles. Legislators passed a religious freedom bill that gained steam after it was rebranded as the ‘Save Chick-fil-A bill.’ Gov. Greg Abbott beamed over its success on Twitter.
And Attorney General Ken Paxton, declining to wait for his own department to rule on a public records request, on Monday filed suit against the city to force it to hand over records he wants for his office’s investigation.
According to the suit filed in Travis County district court on Monday, Paxton’s office requested records on April 11 — including calendars, communications and records of meetings among City Council members, city employees and third parties — related to the city’s decision to remove the restaurant from its airport concessions contract. Paxton’s suit seeks to compel the city to release the records.
“The City of San Antonio claims that it can hide documents because it anticipates being sued,” Paxton said in a statement. “But we’ve simply opened an investigation using the Public Information Act. If a mere investigation is enough to excuse the City of San Antonio from its obligation to be transparent with the people of Texas, then the Public Information Act is a dead letter.”
Nirenberg said in a statement Monday that the city had asked Paxton for clarification on the request but never received a response.
“The fact that he went straight to filing a lawsuit instead of simply answering our questions proves this is all staged political theater,” Nirenberg said.
The deputy city attorney, Edward Guzman, responded to Paxton’s request April 24 saying the city was seeking to withhold some records based on 63 exceptions to the state’s public information act, according to the suit. In a May 2 letter, the city also argued the information is exempt because of litigation that was likely to come from Paxton.
State law exempts the release of information related to “pending or reasonably anticipated” litigation.
San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia said in a statement Monday that the city provided nearly 250 pages of documents for review by the Attorney General’s Open Records Division and is still waiting for a decision.
Segovia said the city will comply with any Open Records Division ruling. He also shed doubt on the motivation behind Paxton’s investigation.
“The State Attorney General’s office has not specified the legislative authority they are relying on to investigate the airport contract,” Segovia said. “Furthermore, it is clear from the strident comments in his press release that any ‘investigation’ would be a pretense to justify his own conclusions.”
See here, here, and here for some background. Any resemblance of the arguments in this case to those in the dispute between Paxton’s office and the House Oversight Committee are, I’m sure, totally coincidental. Whatever else happens in this ridiculous case, the Chick-fil-A follies have provided the wingnuts with the grievance they needed to get their “religious liberties” bill through the Lege, so in that sense Paxton et al have already won. The Rivard Report has more.