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Ortega says he's not turning over City emails sent via personal account

By Darren Hunt, DHuntabc7@yahoo.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 02:53:25 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 16 2014 12:01:37 PM CST

Former city rep Steve Ortega says the City can't compel him to turn over records, only court order will

EL PASO, Texas -

City Council has voted unanimously to ask former and current representatives to voluntarily turn over all personal emails dealing with the Downtown Ballpark.

But former City Representative Steve Ortega says not so fast!

"If there's a court order, I will be happy to turn over the documents," Ortega told ABC-7. "I don't think we should let the debate be dictated by demagogues with unfounded accusations. Before the government is allowed to intrude into your life, there are certain standards that have to be met. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects government overreach unless these standards are met and Stephanie Townsend Allala's accusations simply don't meet those standards."

ABC-7 sat down Townsend-Allala, who led the fight for the release of personal emails dealing with City business. She pointed to the local government code and called it "a silly argument" for Ortega to point to Fourth Amendment rights since he's a public official.

The local government code states: "If the person in possession of a government record refuses to deliver the record on demand the governing body may petition the district court for return of the record."

"(Former Mayor) John Cook, I believe, (current city reps) Emma Acosta, Carl Robinson and Eddie Holguin have already agreed to do this, hand over what we have and then we're going to sign a sworn statement saying we've not withheld anything from you, that's it," Townsend-Allala said. "We're not asking to peak into anyone's email accounts, but we are asking them to be honest and we are asking them to be transparent. Obviously those are two levels Steve Ortega is unable to reach."

ABC-7 called Ortega back, pointing out the only emails being requested from his personal account were those dealing with official city business. He said he understood and as far as the local government code goes, he feels that applies only to the city, adding: "When you're talking about coming into my home, that's where I draw the line."

A new law is set to go into effect in less than two weeks.  The new provision in the Texas Government Code goes into effect Sept. 1 and it says that text messages and emails, no matter the device, from either public or private accounts between elected officials will be officially part of the public record.

You can read the approved bill by clicking here.


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