TFN Calls for Investigation into Whether Texas SBOE Member Is Violating State’s Open Records Law

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller today is calling on the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office to investigate whether State Board of Education (SBOE) member David Bradley, R-Beaumont, has improperly withheld board-related emails subject to requests under the Texas open records law.

“Mr. Bradley can’t pick and choose which laws he will obey,” she said. “Texans have a right to expect their elected officials to follow laws that require them to conduct the people’s business openly and transparently.”

Last month the Texas Freedom Network, through a request under the Texas Public Information Act, obtained a September email exchange in which Bradley suggested to fellow board member Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, that he wanted to “deny the Hispanics a record vote” on whether the SBOE should approve or reject an offensive, error-riddled Mexican-American studies textbook currently under consideration for adoption.

In response to TFN’s request for communications among SBOE members regarding the textbook adoption, Ratliff turned over the email exchange. In that exchange, Ratliff told Bradley that he would “do everything in my power to kill that book.” Bradley, who has criticized advocates of a Mexican-American studies course as “left-leaning, radical Hispanic activists” looking for “special treatment,” replied to Ratliff by suggesting that the board simply not take a vote on the issue: “A lack of a quorum on [sic] would be nice. Deny the Hispanics a record vote. The book still fails.” Unlike Ratliff, Bradley did not turn over the emails in response to the open records request.

After news outlets reported his email comments, Bradley initiated another email exchange with Ratliff in which he appeared to refer to Hillary Clinton and asked: “Have ever [sic] thought of using a private server????” Ratliff replied: “Doesn’t matter where it’s located, it’s all subject to open records. Sorry.”

Ratliff turned over that second email exchange in response to a follow-up open records request from TFN this month. As with the first request, however, Bradley did not turn over the same exchange.

This isn’t the first time Bradley appears to have disregarded the state’s laws on open government. A Travis County grand jury in 2002 indicted Bradley and two other SBOE members for violating the Texas Open Meetings Act. The board members had met secretly with three financial advisers as the full board was considering what consultants to hire for managing the Permanent School Fund. The charges were dropped on the condition that Bradley and his two board colleagues take a course on the Open Meetings Act and not violate other laws (beyond traffic violations) over the following year.

Failing to turn over emails or other records subject to an open records request is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine, up to six months in county jail or both.