Texas attorney general tells city to release settlement documents

Friday, March 27, 1998

TYLER, Texas (AP) — Details of a civil settlement between the town of Mineola and two former police officers are public records and must be released, the Texas attorney general has ruled.

The Tyler Morning Telegraph had requested details of the settlement with Tony Gilmore and Mike Sowers, who sued the Mineola Police Department and city officials alleging federal civil rights violations.

The men said they were fired in August 1996 for reporting criminal conduct of another officer. That officer later was convicted of official oppression for tampering with a marijuana case.

After the newspaper’s request under the Texas Public Information Act, Mineola officials requested Attorney General Dan Morales’ opinion in January.

In a March 23 letter to the city and the newspaper, the attorney general said Mineola must release the documents, the newspaper reported.

A confidentiality agreement between two parties does not allow the city to keep information from the public, the attorney general ruled.

“Governmental bodies may not simply agree to keep information confidential,” the letter said.

The city has 10 business days to file an appeal.

The lawsuit alleged the city and police chief violated the officers’ First Amendment rights and the Texas Whistleblower Act. It sought declamatory judgment, re-instatement, unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and other costs. A July 7 trial date had been set, but the city agreed during mediation to pay the men an undisclosed sum.

Mineola is a town of about 4,300 people 78 miles east of Dallas.

Neither city attorney Robert Bruce nor Mayor Celia Boswell could be reached by The Associated Press Thursday night.

The newspaper also was unable to reach City Administrator Jim Slayton and Police Chief Les Irvin.