Thursday, October 6, 2011

Williamson County Attorney Wars Updated

Update:  Repaired broken link to the Court of Appeals dismissal.
Updated October 12 

Until now, I have refrained from writing much about the trials and tribulations of the Williamson County Attorney's office. Republican Jana Duty was first elected to the office in 2004 and re-elected in 2008, but has developed increasingly antagonistic interactions with the County Judge, all four members of the Commissioners Court, all of the County Court at Law Judges, the Williamson County District Attorney, and pretty much any other judge handing an down unfavorable ruling. The broken attorney-client relationship led to the Commissioners' hiring of local attorney Hal Hawes to provide legal advice to the court. In response, Duty has attempted to sue the County Judge and Commissioners, but her lawsuits have been dismissed. The Commissioners Court filed grievances against Duty, and the State Bar of Texas has filed a lawsuit against her alleging multiple violations of the ethics code. Hawes, the former Assistant County Attorney under Jana Duty, is now running against her in the 2012 Republican Primary.  (As is Rick Kennon of Round Rock.)

 A local, 'anonymous' blogger, has been serving as something of a Jana Duty apologist, and has recently claimed that Hal Hawes was “admonished by the Texas Attorney General's Office.” Unfortunately, in his zeal to aid Ms. Duty, it seems the blogger mis-read the documents from the AG's office. Noted local activist Darlene Plyter (of the Georgetown-Area Tea Party Patriots) queried Hal Hawes about the alleged 'admonishment,' and Mr. Hawes provided her with the relevant documents from the AG's office, as well as his own summary. Rather than attempt to 're-summarize', I have included the communications and documents below so that readers can judge for themselves.

This is likely to be a particularly nasty primary race, and I have been warned that I shouldn't write about it since some of the persons involved are 'powerful' and tend to be 'retaliatory.'


I have no intention of endorsing any candidate in any Primary race this year, but I am not afraid to share important information with the voters, so here 'ya go.  

Update:  Supporters of Jana Duty have pointed out a very legitimate concern; It seems after moving the Assistant County Attorney position out of Duty's office, Hawes was given a 15.96% raise.  I'm guessing the premise is that he has more work on his own, but 15.96%?   Seriously?  Why does it seem only government employees and attorneys are thriving in this economy?

Ironically, while some of the folks embroiled in the Wilco attorney wars seem to be acting out of personal dislike for certain county commissioners, the vote for Hawes' raise was 3-2.  Commissioners Lisa Birkman and Val Covey voted nay.  This is pretty consistent for Birkman and Covey, who are the more fiscally conservative members of the Commissioners Court. 

Not sure this information helps Jana Duty much, but it is problematic for the county.

Email exchange between Darlene Plyter and Hal Hawes.  (I have obtained permission from Darlene Plyter to post this, but have redacted personal contact information.)

From: Darlene Plyter 
Sent: Saturday, October 01, 2011 12:35 PM
Subject: From Hal Hawes: Answer to my QUESTION
Importance: High

Thanks,  -dp

-------Original Message-------

From: Hal Hawes
Date: 9/30/2011 5:43:10 PM
To: 'Darlene

Ms. Plyter:
Thanks for your email and inquiry.  I would like to provide you with a response so the record reflects an accurate accounting of the facts.  Besides, as someone that pays a portion of my salary, you deserve a response. 
In order to provide you with an adequate response, I have enclosed the following documents:
1.     Attorney General’s Letter Ruling dated September 23, 2011, which was referred to in the blog set forth below;
2.     Letter of Clarification from me to the Texas Attorney General dated September 29, 2011.
The two attachments will help you fully understand what actually happened.  However, I would like to summarize the facts since both of the attachments are somewhat long.  My summary is as follows:
1.     *No employee of Williamson County, including myself, ever received the initial request for information, which was dated April 26, 2011.  The request was sent to an independent contractor of the county who was no longer providing services to the county.
2.     *The initial request was not a valid request since it was not sent to our public information officer or any other employee of the county.
3.     *Since Williamson County did not have any knowledge of the initial request, Williamson County could not respond to the request or seek a ruling from the Attorney General.  In other words, we couldn’t respond to something we did not receive or know about.
4.     *A second request for the same information was made by the requestor and it was received by me on August 1, 2011.
5.     *Once the second request was received by me, I sent a request for a ruling to the Attorney General within ten business days, as required by law.
6.     *At that point, it became the obligation of a third party to send arguments to the Attorney General if such third party wished to prevent the disclosure of the information.  Williamson County did not take a position on whether or not such documents should be released.
7.     *The third party did, in fact, send its arguments to the Attorney General.  The Attorney General considered the third party’s arguments and ruled that the requested information must be released.
*As you will note, nowhere in the Attorney General’s Letter Ruling is there any mention of anyone or any entity being “admonished.” 
*The Attorney General Letter Ruling does not state that any of the requested information must be released due to any alleged failure to respond to the first request or due to an “inadequate response” by Williamson County.   Rather, the ruling clearly states the Attorney General considered the third party’s arguments and made the ruling based on the third party’s arguments.
The accusations relating to a “non-disclosure agreement” and the compromising of material do not make any sense at all either.  The non-disclosure agreement that was discussed in commissioners court on June 15, 2010 prohibits SunGard from disclosing information owned or created by Tyler Technologies.  The non-disclosure agreement did not require the county to pledge not to release SunGard’s information.
I again want to thank you for giving me an opportunity to respond to these accusations rather than taking them as being correct and accurate.  If you should have any questions or comments after reading this email or the attachments, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Hal C. Hawes
Legal Advisor
Office of Williamson County Judge
710 Main Street, Suite 200
Georgetown, Texas 78626 

This e-mail transmission and any attachments contain information which is legally privileged and intended solely for use of the party to whom it is addressed. I request notification by telephone or e-mail of misrouted transmissions. If you received this e-mail in error, you are hereby notified that the disclosure, copying, distribution, or taking of any action in reliance upon the contents of this transmission is strictly prohibited. PERMISSION TO FORWARD WAS GIVEN by H.C.H.

From: Darlene Plyter
Sent: Friday, September 30, 2011 3:31 PM
To: Hal Hawes

Hello Hal Hawes,

This week we read on a blog  Wilco Watchdog that you were "admonished by the Attorney General's Office".  

Since you are Legal Advisor for Commissioners' Court, 'We the People of Williamson County' would like to know if this story is true or false, could you please advise?

I have been quite dismayed about the taxpayer dollars that are being spent on personal legal matters pertaining to the County Attorney, and feel an explanation is in order to the voters about it.  We trust you are not involved in all that; hopefully this is just a malicious bit of unrelated gossip....

Kindly awaiting your response,

Thanks so much,
Darlene Plyter & Friends -
Attorney General Letter Ruling Sept 23 2011 Letter of Clarification to AG 9.29.11

1 comment:

Project Editor said...

So, what was the basis for the Attorney General's office stating that Williamson County's response was not timely? Is the AG being called a liar?