Poop-gate is the scandal that just won’t die. Here’s the latest from the shit-hits-the-fan department: The Observer was one of six media outlets that requested information from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) after the agency claimed that protestors had tried to bring “suspected” jars of feces and urine into the Capitol during the abortion debate on July 12. DPS and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst—who claimed that he “saw” bags of feces and jars of urine and then later backtracked to say he’d only been told about them—haven’t produced any evidence that protestors had urine and feces.
Last week, DPS informed the Observer and other media organizations that it wouldn’t be releasing any information and was seeking a ruling from the Texas Attorney General. It’s not unusual for government agencies to withhold information they claim isn’t public or to ask the AG for an open records ruling. However, DPS’ letter to AG Greg Abbott was unusually broad, citing every exception contained in the Texas Public Information Act, including ones that apply specifically to library records, appraisal districts and no-call lists.
But today, responding to an Observer request for additional information from DPS about its filings with the Texas Attorney General, the agency reversed course. In a letter to the AG, DPS said it was “withdrawing its request for a ruling” and “will release records” requested by the Observer and other media—a highly unusual move for a major agency. In a letter, DPS said it would contact me “about releasing the information” by August 23.
Houston attorney Brian Trachtenberg wrote to DPS last week that it had violated the Public Information Act by waiting more than 10 business days to respond to the Poopgate requests and must immediately cough up the records.
“DPS’s attempt to hide behind the AG to avoid producing the requested information, however is fatally flawed,” he writes in a July 30 letter to DPS.
Side-note: Republicans have complained that Poopgate is silly. Here’s the thing: This is a ridiculous scandal. And it’s one that exists (and continues on and on) because of DPS and Dewhurst. In the heat of an unprecedented moment at the Texas Capitol, the state law enforcement agency issued a press release accusing citizens of bringing jars of “suspected” feces and urine into the Capitol but has been unable to point to any evidence to back up its claims. None of the DPS troopers interviewed by The Texas Tribune claim to have seen the “suspected” jars. David Dewhurst claimed to have personally seen “bags” of feces but then later changed his story. Now, DPS has been uncharacteristically sloppy in handling a legally-binding request for more information. Something stinks.