The Texas Department of Transportation is attempting to withhold documents concerning the agency’s use of materials related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and environmental, social, and governance (ESG).
Responding to a tip from a whistleblower, Texas Scorecard sought agency records that would either confirm or debunk allegations that the agency has been pushing a “woke” agenda on its 12,861 employees.
Texas Scorecard sent an open records request to TxDOT under the Texas Public Information Act (PIA). This request sought to unveil whether or not TxDOT employees are being paid to discuss such issues.
Specifically requested were communications referring to DEI and ESG in the possession of the Texas Department of Transportation commissioner, chief of staff, director of human resources, and/or the director of the DEI section.
According to the state’s Public Information Act, government bodies are generally required to “release information in response to a request for information,” unless otherwise excepted. Governmental bodies have the option to release records or fight transparency.
After waiting the full 10 business-day allotted response period, TxDOT informed Texas Scorecard they would be seeking a ruling from the Office of the Attorney General.
“The requested information may be excepted from disclosure under the Public Information Act. Specifically, TxDOT invokes all of the exceptions provided by, and the exceptions incorporated into, sections 552.101 through 552.158 of the Government Code,” wrote William Sumner Macdaniel, associate general counsel for TxDOT, in a letter to the AG.
According to the Freedom of Information Foundation, information that would be exempted from a PIA request includes some information in personnel records, pending litigation, competitive bids, trade secrets, real estate deals, and certain legal matters involving attorney-client privilege.
As previously reported, the Texas PIA has become weakened since its inception. Transparency has become a real fight in the Lone Star State as public servants doggedly fight to hide records.
The Office of the Attorney General has 45 days to respond to TxDOT’s appeal.