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Search results for "Public Information Act" ...

  • Texas Observer: Access Denied

    The Texas Public Information Act is under attack. The law, which ensures the public’s access to government records, has taken a beating from state Supreme Court jurists, lawmakers and state agencies since it was passed in 1973. Once a shining example of government transparency, the law has been eroded by a growing list of loopholes for everything from ongoing police investigations and the dates of birth of government employees to information related to executions. Journalists are well aware of this problem, but it had never been presented to the public in a deep-dive feature until now. “Access Denied” reveals that government officials can delay, derail and deny requests by slow-walking them or charging exorbitant fees. This piece was reported over six months and included interviews with dozens of government officials, investigative journalists, citizen activists and researchers.
  • Rental Inspections

    Student rental housing being the chief industry of our small college town of Frostburg, Md., student reporter Brad Kroner worked for months to obtain city inspection data of rental units. The information finally provided showed 75 percent of rental units had not been inspected in the past three years, as required by municipal code, including many units owned by the mayor. Embarrassed by the published story that resulted, City Hall quickly released an updated set of data – which still showed the city was far from compliant – and said the first set was incomplete because its beleaguered staff had to compile the data from scratch. In other words, the city did not even have the data to know whether it was compliant, until an undergraduate filed a Maryland Public Information Act request asking for it.
  • Conflicts of Interest at MD Anderson Cancer Center

    In a series of investigative stories that has been running for over two years, The Cancer Letter editor Paul Goldberg has been examining conflicts of interest at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the largest cancer hospital in the world. The Cancer Letter laid bare the controversy that would have ordinarily gone unnoticed, producing real-time coverage of that institution’s efforts to create a hybrid of an academic institution and a pharmaceutical company. The web-based weekly newsletter relied on thousands of pages of internal documents obtained under the Texas Public Information Act and a network of sources at MD Anderson and throughout academic oncology and regulatory agencies. The stories informed coverage by the Houston Chronicle, the journals Science and Nature, as well as other news outlets.
  • "DWI Death Capital"

    KHOU-TV set out to answer a frightening question: Why is Harris County, Texas "the DWI death capital of the country?" Employees of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission revealed "little-known amendments" that offer immunity to bars and bartenders "from civil liability" or "state administrative action" that could result from the state law that prevents over-serving alcohol.
  • Crossing the Line

    "We're coming after you." That was the Houston Police Chief's message to thieves when he launched the elite, $5 million a year Crime Reduction Unit. The problem? Some of the department's own officers alleged "we're coming after you" meant violating citizens' rights and search and seizure laws to build flimsy cases and rack up arrest numbers that ultimately did little to fight crime. KHOU-TV identified how CRU officers routinely stopped, handcuffed and interrogated citizens for petty infractions such as jaywalking or riding a bicycle without a light. The vast majority of the time these citizens were let go, but if police did make an arrest, it was usually for trace levels of drugs, which often resulted in plea bargain prosecutions for minimal jail sentences. One veteran defense attorney described the CRU as nothing more than "a mill to get convictions."
  • Crime Doesn't Pay (Back)

    A look into court-ordered restitution in Texas reveals that in the last five years, more than 90 percent of parolees still owe their victims money. In fact, only 5.3 percent of the $435 million in restitution that Texas parolees were ordered to pay in those five years has ever been collected. The state does nothing to attempt to collect the money from these people once they are discharged from the system.
  • Prisoners Best Friend

    Reporters Todd Bensman and Robert Riggs from CBS-11 News, Dallas, investigated tips that State Representative Terri Hodge solicited campaign contributions from inmates families in return for intervening in their loved ones' cases. Not all those campaign contributions were reported. Bensman and Riggs found over 60 instances where Rep. Hodge obtained confidential prison files under a legislative privilege designed to assist in law-making. "As a legislator, Hodge served on the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and frequently sat in on hearings before the COrrections COmmittee, which oversees the Texas Prison system. In her role, Hodge had power over budgets and prison jobs."
  • A Stunning Toll

    Fort Worth Weekly partnered with University of North Texas students who made open records requests of all Texas law enforcement agencies to obtain data on deaths and injuries in Texas resulting form law enforcement agency individual's Taser use.
  • Corruption at Dallas City Hall

    The authors investigated a corruption scandal at Dallas City Hall. The investigation commenced after FBI agents executed high profile search warrants on the city council offices, businesses, homes and vehicles. The FBI wasn't talking and neither were the two officials known to be the subjects of the raids. It fell to the press to explain the city's and FBI's activities.
  • Audit Oddity

    The author reviewed state income tax records, and found that people from a specific zip code were being audited at higher rates than the rest of the state. The author interviewed state officials and tax experts to try and explain the phenomenon.