Watchdog Calls on TX AG to Direct Alcohol Commission to Release Records Concerning State Sen. Joan Huffman
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 20, 2019
Contact: Bryan Dewan, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog group focused on public accountability, called on the Texas Attorney General to direct the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) to release records regarding an incident at a nightclub partially owned by state Sen. Joan Huffman and her husband, Keith Lawyer.
CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens said, “A former public official has accused Sen. Huffman of obstructing an investigation into serious criminal activity, but the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission won’t release records about what actually happened. It’s time for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to come clean and release these records so the public can judge for itself whether Sen. Huffman tried to cover up an investigation into Graham Central Station.”
On June 5, 2018, a former employee of the TABC, Marcus Stokke, filed a lawsuit alleging he was fired after he told federal investigators that Sen. Huffman obstructed an investigation into a nightclub partially owned by Sen. Huffman and Mr. Lawyer. In the lawsuit, the former employee alleged that Sen. Huffman interfered with his investigation into whether Graham Central Station served “alcoholic beverages to a customer who raped a female customer on or immediately in front of its premises and its failure to give the [TABC] or other law enforcement authorities prompt notice of multiple aggravated breaches of the peace.” The nightclub has since been closed, but the lawsuit is pending.
On February 7, 2019, CfA submitted a Public Information Act request to TABC seeking, among other things, records pertaining to Graham Central Station. TABC released 1,012 pages of records, but the agency failed to release the “report narrative” from an incident report about an event at Graham Central Station in March 2013. CfA sent three follow up requests for clarification regarding the failure to release the report narrative, but TABC failed to respond to CfA’s inquires.
Texas agencies must seek a decision from the attorney general if they wish to withhold information from the public. TABC initially asked the attorney general for a decision regarding CfA’s request, but the agency later withdrew its request. By not obtaining a decision from the attorney general but continuing to withhold the information requested, TABC has violated the Texas Public Information Act.
Mr. Stevens continued, “Sen. Huffman claims that the allegations in the lawsuit are false, yet TABC won’t release these records, which would shed light on what actually happened at Graham Central Station. The Texas Attorney General should immediately order the TABC to release these documents.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.