Yesterday, September 30, 2013, Judge Orlinda Naranjo of the 419th District Court in Travis County ruled that Stephanie Townsend Allala can proceed with the depositions of Susie Byrd, Cortney Niland, Steve Ortega and Joyce Wilson. Judge Naranjo denied the city’s petition to quash the subpoenas.

The judge also ruled that Joyce Wilson’s affidavit, attached to the city’s plea to dismiss the case, was “conclusory and unsubstantiated” and therefore agreed with Bill Aleshire’s objection to it.

All four depositions are scheduled for December.

Steve Ortega has been quoted by the news media that he will not release the public records in his possession until “ordered to by a judge”.

Guess what Steve Ortega?

A judge just ordered you to submit to direct questioning by Stephanie Townsend Allala’s attorney to both turn over your documents and attest to the fact that you have now complied with the Texas open meetings laws.

Although the city would be hard pressed to appeal the judge’s ruling nothing the city has done to date in regards to keeping public records away from the community is ethical or proper therefore nothing would surprise me.

In fact, late in the evening, the city issued a press release alleging that the judge had based her decision on erroneous information provided to the court by Bill Aleshire. Aleshire, for his part, acknowledged his factual error of forgetting that he had previously written to the city that it was ok that the attachments be left off in responses made by the city.

According to Bill Aleshire, the city had the burden to prove that it had turned over all of the responsive documents. The only proof provided by the city was the Wilson affidavit that the judge had ruled as insufficient.

The city attorney’s response clearly lays out how the city intends to continue to fight against complying with the open records laws. The city is attempting to distract from the fact that the city has not released all of the records.

Steve Ortega has admitted he has public records in his possession that he is refusing to release.

How the city asserts that it has released all of the responsive documents is beyond me.

Also, Susie Byrd and Steve Ortega are no longer city officials and as such they have no right to taxpayer funded legal representation and therefore if they wish to appeal the ruling they should be doing so on their own dime.

The next step in this continuing saga is to wait for the depositions of the four individuals involved in this fiasco.

I expect Susie Byrd to comply and either providing any public records in her possession that she has not yet released or state under oath that all of the records in her possession have been accounted for.

It will be interesting to see if Steve Ortega steps up for his friend and agrees to represent her at her deposition, or if she will have to pay for her own legal advice. Byrd is unlikely to attempt to handle this situation pro se.

As for Steve Ortega, I fully expect him to arrogantly attempt to further impede his compliance with the release of the public’s records and therefore he is likely to file diversionary motions in an attempt to delay the inevitable.

However it should be noted by all four; Byrd, Niland, Ortega and Wilson that willful non-compliance of the subpoenas could result in contempt of court charges. Should they ever be proven to have lied under oath or it is later revealed that they purposely destroyed any public records then contempt of court and depositions would be the least of their worries as willful concealment of or failure to release public records are criminal offenses in Texas.

It is usually the attempt to conceal or the obstruction of justice that causes most trying to game the judicial system that results in prison time for them.

As I discussed in yesterday’s post I pointed out that the El Paso Times should be acting as the fourth-estate, instead they seem content to just sit back and the let the issue play out. I wonder how many of the reporters at the El Paso Times would let the city get away with the shenanigans they have been allowed to so far. That goes for KVIA as well. Or, is the current crop of reporters comfortable with Steve Ortega admitting to holding public records in secret. It sure seems like it.

And as for the “crazies”, well they can sit back and savor the chanclazo just delivered to Steve Ortega and cohorts.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

8 replies on “Steve Gets His Wish; Court Orders Deposition”

  1. Congradulations to STA and her Attorney..’the truth is always stranger than fiction’ “Go Crazies!” Solidarity

  2. It’s very rude of you to disrespect Steve Ortega. You might not like him or his politics but that doesn’t give you a reason to be disrespect him. I don’t get why some people take you seriously. Why don’t you go bother people in Florida and leave us in El Paso alone!

    1. MariaG is that you using a different name?? I’ve missed your ridiculous defense of your puppet master Steve Ortega and Co.

      You know you don’t have to read Martins blog, right?? Why don’t you try your hand at actually doing your job!!

  3. Steve has disrespected himself and the community by refusing to comply with the law and release public records. This site has done a fantastic job of presenting the facts of the case that our bought-and-paid for media refuses to release, not insult Ortega as you claim.

    Thanks Martin for caring enough about El Paso to take your personal time to work for transparency and accountability 3 states away. The City of El Paso owes you a debt of gratitude.

  4. If Ortega conducted city business on a personal email account, as he has stated, then he should ‘fess up the emails as they are city records.

  5. Very funny Martin! Personally having a mexican heritage, I know what a chanclazo means…bad behavior. As for Mr. Ortega, he has disrepcted the citizens of El Paso first. Recall the votes that were thrown away to the trash bin, yes, that is insulting. He is not above the law! The truth will prevail.

  6. Re DavidK blog post on his “panel of attorneys…”

    The “reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence” tests are liberally construed to allow the litigants to obtain the fullest knowledge of the facts and issues prior to trial. Gutierrez v. Dallas Indep. School Dist.,729 S.W.2d 691 , 693 (Tex. 1987). It does not matter that the information sought may be inadmissible at trial if it appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. TEX. R. Civ. P. 166b(2)(a).

    In Huie v. DeShazo, the supreme court held that confidential attorney-client communications are shielded from discovery and that this privilege extends to the entire communication, including the facts contained therein; however, the court added that the parties seeking the documents could obtain the information in another way, by deposition or by questioning the other party or its attorney regarding factual matters. 922 S.W.2d at 922-23.

    “The party resisting discovery bears the burden of proving any applicable privilege. Id. at 926. To make a prima facie showing of the applicability of a privilege, a party must plead the particular privilege, produce evidence to support the privilege through affidavits or testimony, and produce the documents for an in camera inspection, if the trial court determines review is necessary. In re Valero Energy Corp., 973 S.W.2d 453, 457 (Tex. App.Houston [14th Dist.] 1998, orig. proceeding).

  7. Indeed, we must celebrate an opportunity to learn what is being kept from el paso citizens. It does not matter the content of the emails or other documents, it is within the citizens purview to review. Keep at it Martin. We thank you.

    Great info Carl. Thanks for adding to my knowledge base.

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