AG's Office Says DA Watkins Must Hand Over Appointment Schedule to GOP Chair Neerman

Two months ago to the day, we told you about Dallas County Republican Party chair Jonathan Neerman's public information request for the calendar of Democratic Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins dating back to his first day in office -- January 1, 2007. Seemed like a reasonable request -- after all, Mayor Tom makes his weekly schedule available to media every Friday evening -- but, like Judge Jim Foster, Watkins wasn't giving up his whereabouts so easily. In fact, we're still waiting to hear back on a request for only two days of his schedule from late April.

Also like Foster, Watkins had his office cook up a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott claiming that publicly releasing the DA's schedule "could compromise Mr. Watkins' safety and make him more vulnerable to being attacked."

Abbott's office made its decision in a July 9 letter to Assistant District Attorney Michael Sandlin, and, as Austin lawyer Bill Aleshire told Unfair Park in May, "It's too broad an argument, and based on what I've seen of the AG's rulings on this, I don't think it's gonna fly." Assistant Attorney General Adam Leiber even cited the same 1995 ruling that Aleshire pointed out to us, while telling Sandlin very politely that he failed when arguing the safety issue, among others.

You seek to withhold the remaining calendar entries and the submitted communications under section 552.108(b)(1). You state this information shows scheduled events or requests for the district attorney to appear at scheduled events, and you argue that this information could establish a pattern for future appearances. You state release of this information could compromise the district attorney's safety and make him more vulnerable to being attacked. We note the information at issue only pertains to the district attorney's past schedule and appearances at events of various organizations. You have failed to demonstrate how this information establishes a pattern for any future appearances. Further, you have failed to demonstrate how release of this information will interfere with law enforcement.

Watkins has 10 days to fork over the documents, minus "the calendar entry we have marked in Exhibit C," or else he has 30 days to file suit in Travis County to challenge the ruling. And if he doesn't produce the documents in a timely manner, Neerman can file a suit for a writ of mandamus in district court, which would compel the DA's office to produce the goods.

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