AG Urges Marion County to Comply with TPIA Request, Smoak Says No More Text Messages

Marion County DABy BOB PALMER
Jimplecute News Editor

JEFFERSON – County Attorney Angela Smoak advised the Jimplecute in a letter dated June 12 that all available text messages and emails sought in a Texas Public Information Act request had been delivered.

In a related matter, the office of the Texas Attorney General advised in a June 19 letter that Marion County comply with TPIA requests from the Jimplecute. “In response to your letter dated 6/6/19, please be advised that there are no emails or social media messages that are responsive to your request,” Smoak wrote to Jimplecute Publisher Mica Wilhite.

In her June 6 letter to Smoak, Wilhite reiterated the Jimplecute’s request for more than the screenshots of text messages on the night of April 24 where Sheriff David McKnight admitted posting the satirical “Elmer” post on the Marion County Sheriff ’s Department Facebook page.

“As you know, we requested ‘Records and copies of any electronic communication created, transmitted, received, or maintained on any device if the communication is in connection with the transaction of official business by Marion County for Sheriff David McKnight and Chief Deputy Frank Carson from April 17, 2019 through May 12, 2019,’” Wilhite wrote.

The publisher continued: “To date, we have received phone records for David McKnight dated April 24, 2019 through May 9, 2019 as well as screenshots of text messages from Frank Cason’s phone dated April 4, 2019 through May 23, 2019.”

Since Smoak’s June 12 letter, Wilhite has responded that Smoak’s claim that no additional messages exist is implausible. “Our request is not limited to messages regarding Facebook activity, but for all messages from Sheriff McKnight’s cell phone, Chief Deputy Frank Cason’s cell phone and all their emails whether those messages are to each other or to someone else,” Wilhite said.

State law does allow law enforcement officers to redact messages pertaining to a criminal investigation. The letter from the Education and Enforcement Section of the Open Records Division of the Texas Attorney General’s office was in response to a complaint filed by the Jimplecute when Marion County failed to comply with its request for text messages within the 10 business days.

“The easiest way to resolve this open records complaint is to release the requested information provided the information is not confidential by law,” the AG letter stated.

A Texas Attorney General’s ruling (No. 2011-08166) has determined text messages by public officials are public records. Phone calls and text messages made from cell phones either owned or paid for by the county are public records.

 

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