The Austin Chronicle

Leffingwell 'Troubled' by Sanders Report

By Richard Whittaker, May 9, 2010, 1:48pm, Newsdesk

Continuing the story broken by our own Jordan Smith on Friday, the leaked and unredacted version of the KeyPoint Government Solutions report into the 2009 shooting of Nathaniel Sanders II is damning. Now city officials are responding.

As Smith reported, she received an uncensored version of the file last week. The revelation that the report writers believed that former APD Officer Leonardo Quintana behaved "recklessly" when he shot Sanders has caused public outcry.

First, Mayor Lee Leffingwell,'s statement:

The Austin City Council was advised by the City Attorney several months ago that the unredacted version of the KeyPoint report was not legally available to the Council for review. As such, the Council remained unaware of the full details until they were reported in the media. Like everyone, I’m troubled by the findings of the report, and intend to review the matter fully with the City Manager and Police Chief.
However, there has been a more damning response from Municipal Judge Ramey Ko. He wrote the following to City Council in his capacity serving on the Public Safety Commission:
The revelations of the last few days concerning the KeyPoint report on the Nathaniel Sanders shooting have been undeniably startling. While there are obviously numerous concerns with the way the investigation and response were handled, I believe it is critical to highlight one aspect in particular.

KeyPoint was hired in part to bolster public confidence in the investigative process, but we now know that not only were parts of the report redacted, but "its key findings were kept secret" (Statesman 5/8/2010). Even a cursory glance at the main conclusions of the independent investigators is more than enough to confirm that several of the most important elements of the report were concealed. According to statements from the Council and the City Manager, these critical findings were not only hidden from the general public, but from the elected representatives of the people and city management by certain elements of APD and city staff.

Many of the same people are now among those urging the Council to push forward on the Fusion Center proposal. Even though critical components of the Interlocal Agreement and Privacy Policy such as independent auditing and the make-up and operation of the Privacy Policy Oversight Committee are still far from complete, they are asking the Council and the people of Austin to simply trust them and supposedly everything will be worked out later. For those of us inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt, these recent developments must give us pause. Accountability and transparency are at the heart of citizens' anxieties over the Fusion Center, and the KeyPoint incident has raised significant concerns about the commitment of certain staff to both. If these individuals believe they cannot or should not trust the public that they serve with vital information concerning matters of life and death, what are the implications for their handling of a project involving an unprecedented level of information gathering and monitoring of our own citizens? If they are determined to keep even Council in the dark about critical public safety issues, what confidence should the people of Austin have in their ability to have meaningful oversight over the Fusion Center?

While the KeyPoint report is just one perspective among many, it is nonetheless a vital and necessary part of the conversation. To exclude its most central conclusions from the discussion is hardly an act of transparency, and any attempt at accountability without all the evidence is foolhardy at best. As a member of a Public Safety Commission created to give the people a voice in city government, I intend to seek further answers about this matter at our next meeting.

Also Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, has responded (TCRP actually filed an open records request for the document, which is still pending):
The verbal and written statements by Chief Acevedo yesterday to the press that “a federal court and state law prohibit him from releasing the complete information” and “The Department is precluded by Texas State Law and a standing Federal Court protective order” doing so are false and dissembling or, to use his words, "offensive" and "irresponsible."

The City Attorney demanded the protective order from the federal court. The judge very reluctantly signed off on it. It was the city’s action that brought that about – something the Chief didn’t bother to mention.

It is flat out wrong to say that state law prohibits the release of the report. Nor does the City’s Meet and Confer Agreement. State law allows the city to ask for permission to not comply with a Public Information Act request, but it does not prohibit the release of information – and most certainly does not preclude release of the information that came out yesterday in the Statesman. The Attorney General’s opinion in this case was issued based on the information presented by the City Attorney, and that request was tailored to suit the City Attorney. It did not honestly lay out all the information.

In any regard, if the City does not retract the Chief’s statements to the press and apologize to the people of Austin by 5:00pm tomorrow afternoon, it is my intent to appear at City Council and demand that this be done.

As to the Chief’s personal attacks and threat to report me to the Bar, I consider that to be one more effort to continue the cover up. He won’t be the first official to try the tactic to report me to the Bar for criticizing an official, but, in each case that’s happened – as will surely happen in this case, the First Amendment has triumphed, as indeed it should in a democracy.

Finally, the Mayor’s position that he and the Council could not see the report is one of the more bizarre legal arguments I have heard, especially when other people in city government and the citizens panel could see it in its entirety. I am totally confident that this position of the Mayor and Council is not coming from the City Attorney, but designed for political cover.

The time has come to get straight with the people of Austin.

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