Local reporter Jerry Jordan, through his online news site, has filed suit against the Beaumont Independent School District, alleging it violated the Texas Public Information Act by refusing to release certain requested documents.
Jordan's site, SETInvestigates.com, alleges it requested at least seven different documents from BISD during June, July and August, but the district refused to release the information in a timely manner.
Documents the website requested on May 16 included a copy of the contract and minutes of the meeting in which the board of trustees hired attorney Tanner Hunt to help with the hiring of a new superintendent and payments made to Tanner Hunt and his law firm for the search, according to the complaint filed Sept. 18 in Jefferson County District Court.
On June 7, SETInvestigates.com sought information regarding contracts, while on June 18, it requested the number of unused sick and vacation days outgoing superintendent Dr. Carrol Thomas told the board he had and data used to determine a buyout amount, the suit states.
The amount of money spent on a retirement party flyer for Dr. Thomas was the subject of another June inquiry,the complaint says. The web site claims it also requested information on the current legal bill for the Benson Law Firm and the contents of a video surveillance video shot at Austin Middle School between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
However, the school district has not complied with the website’s requests, according to the complaint.
“Based upon information and belief, including media reports, BISD often, when it suits BISD, treats TPIA requests from other public media more favorably, e.g. more rapid compliance, than TPIA requests from individuals like plaintiff,” the suit states.
The plaintiff is seeking a court order that the BISD release the requested information. It also is seeking a declaratory order that BISD violated the TPIA and that BISD treat all future TPIA requests equally.
Michael D. Getz of Beaumont will be representing the plaintiff.
The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court.
Case No. A193-182