TAHSR Sues Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and TxDOT
Jewett, Texas – Texans Against High-Speed Rail (TAHSR) has filed a lawsuit against Ken Paxton, Texas Attorney General, and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) seeking information being withheld from the public about the proposed Dallas Houston High-Speed Rail (HSR). In a clear effort to withhold critical information from the public, Texas Central Railway (TCR) and TxDOT executed a non-disclosure agreement on October 12, 2014, which says that any and all information shared by TCR to TxDOT should be kept confidential from the public. As a result, responses to requests for records made through the Texas Public Information Act have been heavily redacted and are obviously incomplete.
Kyle Workman, president of TAHSR, said, “As property owners and taxpayers, we are entitled to information about a project intending to use eminent domain to take our property and eventually our tax dollars. We are challenging the Attorney General’s decision so the citizens of Texas can have full access to information that is lawfully theirs. Through every available option, Texans Against High-Speed Rail is committed to ensuring an open and honest discussion about the realities of this HSR project.”
TAHSR properly requested information regarding the Dallas Houston HSR from TxDOT on March 20, 2015. Instead of producing what should clearly have been public, TxDOT requested a decision from the Attorney General’s office on withholding a significant amount of documents. Immediately thereafter, TCR sent a letter attempting to influence the Attorney General to allow TxDOT to withhold documents provided by TCR to TxDOT. TCR concealed the basis of its supposed legal arguments by redacting virtually the entire argument in the copy of such letter provided to TAHSR. TCR’s calculated actions seek to eliminate a Texas Public Information Act challenge by concealing which categories of documents were wrongfully withheld.
On July 23, 2015, the Attorney General issued his decision allowing TxDOT to withhold information from the public about the proposed Dallas Houston HSR. TAHSR is compelled to take action to challenge the Attorney General’s decision and gain access to all the information about the Dallas Houston HSR so that this private project receives the proper public scrutiny it deserves, especially given TCR’s plan is to use eminent domain, one of the strongest authorities of the state.
Blake Beckham, special litigation counsel for TAHSR, said, “TCR has repeatedly claimed they are transparent; in truth, TCR is cloaked in secrecy. TCR wrongfully entered into a non-disclosure agreement with a state agency in an effort to conceal public information of great importance. Then, TCR sent a letter to the Attorney General asking him to bless TxDOT’s refusal to disclose TCR’s documents to the public, but TCR blacked out all of its legal arguments before sending the letter to TAHSR. By using secret legal arguments to conceal secret agreements which hide public documents, TCR is using star chamber tactics to conceal vital public records related to the proposed Dallas Houston HSR. In another eminent domain setting, Gov. Greg Abbott said the Government still respects private property rights and should end unconscionable land grabs. Unfortunately, our Attorney General has supported TCR’s efforts to conceal public information in this attempted land grab. As a result, we are exercising our right under the Texas Public Information Act to seek an impartial ruling from an impartial court, free from TCR’s influence.”