City seeks to delay email hearing due to similar case in other county

City email battle continues

EL PASO, Texas - The City of El Paso is trying to indefinitely delay action on the lawsuit related to the release of the emails of city representatives dealing with the ballpark and other city business.

That's according to Bill Aleshire, the first amendment attorney representing local government watchdog, Stephanie Townsend Allala.

Thursday morning, there's a hearing in an Austin court to determine if the lawsuit should come to a halt. The city is asking to stop the proceedings until a similar case in Bexar County is resolved.

That case is being heard by the 3rd Court of Appeals and involves County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson, who refused to release emails about public business sent from his personal account after an open records request by the San Antonio Express News. 

"It could be many months or years until the 3rd court of appeals makes a decision in that case and i don't know for sure that would resolve the issues in this case and there's certainly no reason to postpone getting the basic discovery done in this lawsuit with El Paso," said Aleshire.

Under the direction of the new city council, the city last month released hundreds emails it had withheld for nearly a year.

The city posted those emails on its website, saying it had withheld them because they contained sensitive information about competitive bidding and the acquisition of property related to the stadium that could have compromised the process.

When the city released the emails, the City Attorney said they were going to give current and former city representatives one last chance to turn in any remaining emails from private accounts or devices that dealt with public business.

The City did not respond to ABC-7 emails and a phone call, asking which former and current elected officials had turned in emails.

Aleshire said on Monday he had not received any emails from the City and wanted to depose several city representatives, beginning with former City Rep. Susie Byrd and current City Rep. Cortney Niland. "Either they've (the emails) all been turned over to the city and they can swear that that's the case or they still have them and for some reason they're still trying to hold on to them," he said. He said even though the City posted the emails on its website, the city has not sent him any of the documents.

The City initially filed a motion to quash Aleshire's request to interview Niland and Byrd under oath, saying the city could not force the two city representatives to show up to court. So Aleshire filed individual subpoenas to Byrd and Niland.

Aleshire said he offered the city to settle the case if city officials provided an affidavit saying they had turned over all relevant emails, but both parties have not come to a resolution.

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