West U Tightlipped on Graffiti Incidents
For the past two years, InstantNewsWestU.com has been trying to uncover details of at least 22 graffiti incidents that cost the city an estimated $22,000 in cleanup.
The news organization is one Attorney General’s opinion away from possibly exposing the details of the incidents.
The City of West U is seeking an Attorney General’s decision to withhold information requested by InstantNewsWestU.com because “children” were involved in the incidents.
“Two (2) of the offenders involved in the incident are children as defined by Section 51.02(2)(A) of the Family Code,” City Attorney Elliot Barner said in his letter. “Therefore, the City requests that it be permitted to withhold all information responsive to the request that concern the children involved in the incident.”
Barner is an attorney with Johnson, Radcliffe, Petrov and Bobbitt PLLC, the firm that represents the City of West U.
InstantNewsWestU.com first published a story about the police investigating several incidents where an unknown person or persons defaced public property with graffiti in October 2010.
In November 2010, the news organization reported that the police were aware of about 22 incidents where city owned buildings or property had been tagged with the word “hater” or “h8r” in magic marker and paint.
Assistant City Manager and Public Works Director Chris Peifer told the news organization two years ago that the estimated cost to the city for each incident was about $1,000.
The city sent a crew of two people to clean up the graffiti, they had to pay for the time of the individuals, product costs and recoating and equipment costs, he said.
If the paint didn’t match the wall, the entire wall needed to be repainted, which was an additional cost, Peifer said.
The tagging was done on everything from light polls to walls, Peifer said, as well as on the West U Rec. Center fence, a wall on Ruskin and a junction box cover outside of the West U Senior Center, among others.
InstantNewsWestU.com filed an open records request on Nov. 16, 2012 for all documents related to the case.
The police department released one incident report on Nov. 21 and said they would be seeking an opinion from the Attorney General.
The incident report released to the news organization stated that an “unknown person” defaced city property, but in the argument to the Attorney General, the city attorney said that the documents were being withheld because the suspects were “children.”
InstantNewsWestU.com contacted Police Chief Ken Walker to clarify the inconsistency.
“The incident report was written on October 11, 2010. At the time of the report, no suspects were known. Much later, approximately 7 months later, suspects were identified through follow up investigation,” Walker said in an e-mail.