Saturday, March 16, 2019

FOIA Request of Houston Public Library by SafeLibraries - 02

Re: FOIA Request of Houston Public Library by SafeLibraries - 02

Dear Assistant Public Information Officer Gonzalez:

The Texas Public Information Act [TPIA a.k.a. FOIA] gives the public the right to request access to government information. The same applies to the Houston Public Library pursuant to www.houstontx.gov/pia.html that specifically names you as the TPIA contact for the library. Therefore, please respond to the below noncommercial TPIA request in accordance with the law. In return for your prompt attention, I will try my best to make the request within the boundaries of the law so as to minimize everyone’s efforts and even try to avoid your need for expensive legal counsel, unlike last time when the Texas Attorney General had to intervene to force compliance. To help you avoid further legal counsel fees, feel free to err on the side of nondisclosure just so long as you tell me what you did and give me a chance to discuss it with you. I will be asking for public information under the law and fully expect redactions to be made in accordance with the law but no further.

I am a reporter on library matters where I publish on both SafeLibraries and on Sexual Harassment of Librarians. As such I may publish anything you send me, and I ask that all fees for the production of TPIA responses be waived, as they have been implicitly in my first request per order of the Texas Attorney General. Indeed I have written about your library before:
As to the reduction in fees, “If a governmental body determines that producing the information requested is in the ‘public interest’ because it will primarily benefit the general public, the governmental body shall waive or reduce the charges.” Source: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/sites/default/files/2018-06/PIA_handbook_2018_0.pdf 194; 194 Gov’t Code § 552.267(a). That this is a matter of public interest is evident by the international media attention the library has received as a result of the matter my TPIA/FOIA request addresses, namely, the admission of an "oversight" in allowing a registered child sex offender to read to children at Drag Queen StoryTime. So please waive all fees as I may not only report on this matter but also provide insight from my almost two decades of experience in library-related matters, thereby making my reporting unique. Last time you tried to change me fees as another means to quash production of documents required by law. Please don't do that again. Literally the world will want to see the documents you produce in response to this request.

I ask that you send the requested documents in PDF format so they may be easily attached to an email, with the exception of photographs (that should be JPEG), audio files (that should be MP3), and video (that should be MP4 or MOV video files). If the document files are too large to transmit in one single email, I authorize you to transmit them to me either via a free file sharing service such as DropBox or via multiple emails (as many as required to send all of the documents requested). To the extent any document is available to the public on the Internet, simply providing the URL to the published document will be sufficient to stand in the stead of attaching a PDF version (else attach the PDF if you will not provide the URL, I’m just trying to make things easier for you). I am attempting to make this as easy for you and me as possible and I am willing to work with you should you have any concerns, just use my contact information above.

Where emails are involved, also provide the BCC as well as the CC and the TO. As you know, BCC is for the convenience of the sender, not for circumventing public information laws. If senders/recipients include distribution lists the library created, then please provide the document that lists the individual recipient email addresses in any distribution list; again, distribution lists are for the convenience of the sender, not for circumventing the law. Further, if library business has been conducted via the use of personal emails, then please provide those emails as well. Conducting library business on personal emails is not a valid means for circumventing TPIA.

Any document written or recorded is included as well. That includes voice mails, audio recordings, transcripts or minutes of any public meeting. Library board executive session recordings or minutes are not included in my request if they have not already been made public.

Written or recorded documents also include those made in any telephonic, electronic, or physical meeting with anyone acting on behalf of any library association such as the American Library Association [ALA]. ALA trains librarians that written or recorded documents from ALA-provided trainings, meetings, conferences, etc., are ALA proprietary and may not be released publicly. That ALA claim is false. TPIA controls, not ALA. If a public employee attended anything at public expense, then anything learned/recorded at such an event or as a result thereof has been made public and is discoverable under TPIA no matter what ALA claims. The public has a right to know what business has been conducted at public expense, especially where the library goofed and allowed a pedophile to read stories to children.

Be clear ALA top leadership uses personal email to direct librarians to destroy public documents precisely to prevent production under state sunshine laws like TPIA. Example from the private email of the current Acting Director Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Esq., of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom: “Subject: URGENT -­ must delete all documents related to 17 Dec crisis communications workshop .… Remove these from your servers today and destroy hard copies. This is an attempt by two individuals to obtain privileged information …. we cannot allow anything from 17 Dec to be produced in response to FOIA.” Source published here:
I am limiting this TPIA request to two subjects. 1) The attorneys fees for matters relating to my previous FOIA request, the response to which has been compelled by the Texas Attorney General, and 2-19) the viral news of the criminal reading to children at several library events, for which the library has apologized, with this KHOU story being representative:
Given the above, I hereby request under TPIA the following, and responses need only be provided once if they have already been answered/provided in a previous request response:

1) Regarding my previous FOIA request and the FOIA requests of others who were considered together as a group in the recent opinion of the Texas Attorney General who forced compliance with the law, during Sunshine Week and Open Government Week, no less, please provide all legal bills where any work recorded in those bills pertained in any way to any of the FOIA requests. I am trying to determine how much money was spent to hide records from the public. I know a library that spent at least a half a million dollars and cried poverty to raise taxes to pay for more legal legerdemain (the lawyers recommended librarians not call police when patrons viewed child pornography because that might violate the child porn viewers intellectual freedom rights), so I'm now curious in this case, especially since proper handling of initial concerns may have precluded all this.

2) Given the KHOU report reveals, "A media spokesperson for the library confirmed one of the program’s drag queens, Tatiana Mala Nina, is Alberto Garza, a 32-year-old child sex offender. In 2008, he was convicted of assaulting an 8-year-old boy," please provide what documentation you have on that individual.

3) Given the KHOU report reveals, "In a statement, the Houston Public Library admits they didn’t do a background check on Garza and said Garza will not be involved in any future library programs," please provide that statement and all drafts of what became that statement.

4) Given the KHOU report reveals, "'In our review of our process and of this participant, we discovered that we failed to complete a background check as required by our own guidelines,' the library said in a statement," please provide those guidelines as they exist now, and as they existed at the time of the sex offender's presence in the library to read to children, and all drafts of what became those guidelines. Further, provide documentation of the "review of our process and of this participant." Provide documentation showing what background is checked in a background check. Provide documentation showing how such checks are performed. Provide documentation showing bills for private detectives to perform checks or other goods or services consumed to perform such checks. Provide browser histories of all background checks.

5) Given the KHOU report reveals, "We deeply regret this oversight and the concern this may cause our customers. We realize this is a serious matter," please provide all crisis management and media management documentation including documentation on how to speak with media so as to shape a message to the library's benefit. It is entirely possible, for example, existing documentation accounts for instances such as this and that the "oversight" language is literally a cut and paste from crisis management or media management documentation. Most libraries have this kind of documentation, whether drafted by themselves or in a book such as the Intellectual Freedom Manual (in which I appear, depending on the edition) drafted by the American Library Association or in notes or handouts brought back from crisis and media management workshops.

6) Given the KHOU report reveals, "we have not received any complaints about any inappropriate behavior by participants at storytimes," please provide all complaints of any kind related in any way to the "storytimes."

7) Given the KHOU report reveals, "'We are taking the appropriate action to ensure that the status of every participant in every program throughout our system is verified. We will continue to review our process to ensure that this cannot happen again,'" please provide documentation on what action will be taken to ensure the status of every participant in every program throughout your system is verified. Also provide documentation on the review process. Also provide documentation the review process will occur at public meetings or otherwise in compliance with sunshine laws. This way the public can decide whether or not the action taken is "appropriate." "Appropriate" is just another fluffy word like "oversight" that is intended to mollify what happened in this case. The public wants to see documentation of what action will be taken and documentation of what was the review process that led to the documented plan for action.

8) If any documentation includes canceling Drag Queen StoryTimes until the review process is complete and the new procedures are finalized, then that's part of this TPIA / FOIA request. When books are challenged, libraries refuse to remove them until the review process is complete, and it could take months. Similarly, until the review process is complete, and it could take months, I'd expect cancellation of existing Drag Queen StoryTime events like an upcoming one this month. Please provide documentation of all such cancellations and responses thereto.

9) Given the KHOU report reveals, "Protesters say they want more than apologies; they want heads to roll," please provide all documentation of personnel changes resulting from the present debacle, or any planning for personnel changes.

10) Given the KHOU report reveals, "Drag Queen Storytime’s creators say it’s part of a national program that aims to promote love and acceptance," I note the following. Love and acceptance is nice but it's not the issue. The issue here is "Drag Queen Storytime" is part of a "national program," in other words, it's a business. I am certain the library has a policy on how businesses may or may not promote their business within the library. Provide that policy. I am certain the library has a policy on not promoting individual businesses by providing free time, free space, free advertising, free promotion, etc., to certain businesses. Provide that policy. Provide all documentation about allowing a business to repeatedly use a library in a manner that violates library policy. Provide all documentation about what services where provided to such businesses and the potential costs for those services were they to be purchased in an arms-length transaction instead of gifted by the library, and by library I mean the library, any library related friends group, any library related endowment group, or any other means for such businesses to benefit without direct involvement of the library by itself. Also, provide documentation of all publicity and other benefits and services given the Drag Queen Storytime business by the library.

11) Given Texas law Sec. 24-5 - Rules and regulations - states, "(a) The director shall have authority, subject to the approval of the mayor and city council, to prescribe rules and regulations for the administration of the department and for the orderly government and use of the library system, provided that such regulations shall not conflict with valid laws or ordinances. Without limitation, the director is authorized to include provisions that govern the use of library premises by the public, including the use of the property around the library, in order to promote an environment that is protective of the health and well-being of patrons and children while at the library facility. A copy of such rules and regulations shall be maintained for public inspection in each library within the system, in the office of the director and in the office of the city secretary," please provide a copy of "such rules and regulations" "maintained for public inspection."

12) Further, provide documentation where allowing businesses to repeatedly present as library programs instead of in the public meeting rooms per public meeting room polices is done "for the orderly ... use of the library system," as required by Sec. 24-5.

13) Further, with regard to Request #12, provide documentation where the director has obtained "the approval of the mayor and city council," as required by Sec. 24-5, to selectively promote a specific business as has been done in the present debacle where the business obtained so many benefits that tossing aside security concerns was part of the package deal, showing more concern for the business than for the safety of the community.

14) Further, provide documentation where a business featuring drag queens reading to children "promote[s] an environment that is protective of the health and well-being of patrons and children while at the library facility," as required by Sec. 24-5.

15) Further, with regard to Request #14, provide documentation where the director has obtained "the approval of the mayor and city council," as required by Sec. 24-5.

16) Provide all documentation of legal advice provided to the library to allow the library to act outside the law of Sec. 24-5 or otherwise in any manner involving Sec. 24-5.

17) Provide all documentation of legal advice provided to the City of Houston to allow the library to act outside the law of Sec. 24-5 or otherwise in any manner involving Sec. 24-5.

18) Provide copies of all liability policies ensuring the library against various losses, including litigation.

19) Given the KHOU report reveals, "A media spokesperson for the library," provide documentation on the library's limiting media exposure to a single media spokesperson. Provide all documentation on media attempting to speak with all library employees, trustees, or librarians, other than the media spokesperson. Provide documentation where that media spokesperson is involved with library trustee decisions or librarian meetings or in any way has any knowledge or experience with the library, other than having little direct knowledge except how to use words like "appropriate" or "oversight" to mollify the truth. It is quite likely that the PR person did not handle this matter properly from the start, that's why is grew bigger and bigger, so I'm unsure why such a person can be trusted with the media now or why the media should not attempt to speak with someone having real authority and experience.

Thank you very much for your attention to this matter.

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Dan Kleinman, Owner of SafeLibraries® brand library educational services
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Dated: 16 March 2019 (Saturday)

[NOTE: If any librarian wishes to contact me privately/confidentially, perhaps to provide some of this documentation, use SafeLibraries@pm.me.]


NOTE ADDED SAME DAY 16 MARCH 2019:

The above publication has been cited/linked by another publication:

NOTE ADDED 17 MARCH 2019:

Another publication cites/links me:
Even Greg Abbott, the Governor of Texas, is now engaged in this debacle at HPL: