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Houston Community College may have illegally withheld campaign finance information: Experts

By   /   September 5, 2011  /   No Comments

By Mike Cronin

Houston Community College officials haven’t made it easy to obtain campaign finance information on candidates running for its board.

And questions exist whether HCC officials have illegally withheld some campaign finance information.

Local blogger Charles Kuffner detailed the byzantine process HCC officials required him to go through earlier this month.

But even when Jessica L. Saldivar, an HCC assistant general counsel, finally provided the documents last week, the college still withheld significant information.

First, Saldivar blacked out the home addresses of the candidates, who comprise nine incumbents and one challenger.

Next, Saldivar redacted the same information for all donors who contributed money to the candidates’ campaigns.

The financial forms cover the reporting period from Jan. 1 to June 30 of this year.

Public information experts in Houston and Austin agree that Texas law allows HCC officials to redact home addresses of political contributors.

“It’s kind of counterintuitive,” said Tom Gregor, a Houston lawyer who provides legal advice for the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas in Austin. “But the reasoning behind it is that the state doesn’t want to lose out on private donors who might fear that their personal information would be disclosed.”

But withholding candidate home addresses is a different matter.

A public entity such as HCC may redact home addresses of its elected officials and employees only if those officials or employees requested that in writing within 14 days of taking office, Gregor said.

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