As readers may remember, last month El Paso Politics filed a request with the El Paso County Attorney asking them to request an opinion from Texas Attorney General on whether the El Paso Children’s Hospital is a governmental body for the purposes of the Texas Public Information Act. We believe that the children’s hospital is sustained by taxpayer funds and thus it should comply with open records requests. The hospital argues that it does not need to respond to public information requests because it is a non-profit organization.
To settle the differences of opinion on whether the El Paso Children’s Hospital is subject to public information laws we asked the County Attorney to seek a ruling from the Texas Attorney General.
On May 10, the County Attorney declined our request for them to intervene on behalf of the taxpayers of the city.
The County Attorney cited Fallon v. MD Anderson Physicians as the reason they declined our request. In our response to the County Attorney, we outlined why we disagreed with their reading of Fallon and how it applies to the children’s hospital. We are waiting for their response to our second request.
When we originally filed our request with the El Paso County Attorney’s office, we copied the county judge and the county commissioners. As of this morning we have not received any responses from the elected officials.
Attorney General Responds To Our Complaint
In our original request we also filed a complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s office including the packet we provided the county attorney’s office and the elected officials.
The Texas Attorney General copied us in a letter dated May 10 to the El Paso Children’s Hospital.
In the letter the Texas Attorney General notes that their “records to not indicate a request for an OAG ruling” from the children’s hospital asking the attorney general to determine whether our open records request is valid.
The Attorney General writes, “although the OAG has civil enforcement authority” under the Texas Public Information Act, it “prefers to work with governmental bodies and requestors to resolve complaints informally.”
The attorney general’s office asks the children’s hospital in their letter to “provide a written response” to their letter “within 10 business days.”
They included a certification form to allow the children’s hospital to let them know that the information we requested “has been or will be released” to us, or that the hospital “has requested or will request an attorney general’s decision regarding the requested information.”
This is what El Paso Politics had requested the County Attorney to do on behalf of the county’s taxpayers.
According to the attorney general letter, the children’s hospital has a third option on the form which is to certify that they do not have the information we requested.
El Paso Politics is waiting for more information from the Texas Attorney General and a response to our request for the El Paso County Attorney to reconsider their denial of our request.
We will report when more information becomes available.