Enough already. Galveston City Attorney Dorothy Palumbo has made it clear she is no friend to the public’s Constitutionally protected right to know. But the latest example of her disdain for all things related to the First Amendment really does go too far.

Palumbo has convinced the Galveston City Council to hold a special meeting Tuesday so she and members of the council can discuss what they can legally do to force the newspaper to produce documents cited in a story published Thursday. The story was about the city’s efforts to develop options for pushing public housing on scattered sites onto the mainland.

I’m sure that news didn’t sit particularly well with the Texas General Land Office and Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who have an agreement with the city to rebuild those 388 units on the island. That’s also why the newspaper’s decision to report on this doesn’t sit particularly well with city officials.

Citing an obscure local government code, Palumbo demanded the newspaper return the documents cited in the story. We have declined.

Our attorney tells us the code applies to original documents, not copies like the ones we legally obtained through normal, Constitutionally protected methods of news gathering.

But the question isn’t whether we had a right to use the information in the documents. We did.

It’s not whether the public had a right to know the information that was in the documents. You did.

The question is: What is the point of trying to make us return the documents? Will that magically make the public and General Land Office unaware of the scattered site options the city has considered? Will not having these documents in our possession stop us from writing more about this in the future?

Of course not.

Palumbo wants to know who leaked this information to us, and she thinks having a look at what we’ve got might help her to identify the source. She has absolutely no right to that information.

Before they go much further, she and the council might want to bone up on the Texas Shield Law, which allows us to protect the identity of our sources in cases just like this. Council members also might want to think about what an enormous waste of their time and taxpayer money it would be if Palumbo is allowed to depose each of them, all the members of her staff and the attorney who prepared the memo — any of whom could have provided us with copies of the documents. Those are the kinds of steps the city would have to take before a court would consider a case under the Shield Law.

Members of the council are reasonable people. If they really think about what Palumbo is trying to do, and what it would entail, they might come to the same conclusion I have.

Enough already. 

Patrick Graham is president and publisher of The Daily News.

(4) comments

Raymond Lewis

The council will not come to the same conclusions Mr publisher. Keep in mind she was able to convince them the need to have this senseless meeting. If only they could realize what they have is a sham artist, not a city attorney.

Bill Broussard

"Palumbo wants to know who leaked this information to us, and she thinks having a look at what we’ve got might help her to identify the source. She has absolutely no right to that information."

Right you are Patrick. Should you surrender them, I am certain she will send the documents immediately to our Top Rated Crime Lab where CSI specialists will dust for DNA or fingerprints.

Has anyone noticed just how out of this world weird our City has become in the last year? This plus a Council Member testifying on a bill she had introduced that, according to our Mayor—the officially elected public spokesperson for the City—he knows nothing about? We have an out-of-control willingness to do significant business with folks who have a tendency to go bankrupt? : Marquette last week and now our Sign vendor for Seawall Parking? Before that, Point West?

I had a chance to talk with Louis once well before any of this stuff happened. At the end I said “please be careful, this Council is on the way to having the reputation of losing every single battle they take on including Seawall Parking as their Legacy i.e. getting nothing done. I know the term is not up yet, but still…………………..
I also encouraged him to run, not walk, on anything that looks like the City involving itself in static easements. I’m just not very good at persuasion.

If there was a valid representation of how this City works at this point in time. It might very well be the Council turning in loops and embarrassing itself at any occasion and that the GLO and Mr. Patterson actually manages anything of importance to us currently. Perhaps Ms. Palumbo should call Jerry first before she calls a meeting on anything. He runs the place.

Paula Flinn

AMEN! It is beginning to look like this council is, "All Hat and No Cattle."

They just talk everything to death--everything but Special Use Permits (SUP's).

Miceal O'Laochdha

Stand your ground Mr. Graham. Beyond any reasonable expectation, The Galveston Daily News is now standing alongside The Washington Post and The New York Times, albeit, on the smaller scale appropriate to the community, newsparer and level of public officials involved.

This 50 cent lawyer hired by our city officials has set the stage for your journalistic coup. Who could have anticiapted that? In the role of contemporary, local, version of former US AG John Mitchell, Ms. Palumbo more closely resembles his wife, Martha. Nonetheless, you have cuaght a big fish. Reel it on in.

And contratulations to the reporter who scored the information. A pay raise is in order.

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