House speaker subject to two lawsuitsLawyer, newspaper seek phone, calendar records related to his leadership
By CHRISTY HOPPE / Dallas Morning News
October 8, 2004
AUSTIN _ A newspaper and a lawyer seeking telephone and calendar records of state House Speaker Tom Craddick have filed separate lawsuits demanding the information, which the speaker maintains is confidential.
A grand jury is investigating whether Mr. Craddick improperly allowed lobbyists or political committees to influence his race for speaker in 2002.
In Texas, the campaign for speaker is among the House members.
It is illegal for outside political forces to become involved, other than to contribute money to a candidate.
The records requested involve state phones, and phone messages and calendars maintained by state employees.
They cover a period when Mr. Craddick was seeking the speaker's chair in 2002 and the months following his achieving the office.
Bob Richter, a spokesman for Mr. Craddick, said: "We haven't seen the lawsuits. We have no statement."
Chris Feldman, a lawyer for Democratic candidates defeated in 2002, filed suit Thursday to obtain the records. The Austin American-Statesman filed the other suit Wednesday, seeking similar records.
Both actions allege the telephone records and calendars should be available under the state's Public Information Act.
Mr. Craddick has cited an exception in the law that allows a legislator to withhold certain information to protect constituents from unwarranted invasion of privacy.
The parties in both lawsuits contend that the legal exception does not apply to a public official's contact with political committees and lobbyists.
An opinion by the attorney general's office said it would be up to Mr. Craddick to determine if the correspondence and phone messages constituted protected information or whether to release it, as previous speakers have.
The opinion noted that the requestors could go to court to seek the information.