AP NEWS

Woodlands releases incorporation report after Villager public records request

January 28, 2019

The Woodlands Township released on Friday, Jan. 25, all documents related to the financial model study and analysis done by a consulting firm after staff with The Villager made a Texas Public Information Act public records request for the documents.

The release of the documents, however, came after township officials had first informed staff at The Villager that they were not going to release the documents in question and would be contesting the release of the records sought — which included all reports, photos, graphs, spreadsheets and other types if information related to a financial model report done by officials with the Matrix Consulting Group — with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The Matrix report had been given in a public incorporation planning meeting, but the document had not been made public in a printed-out packet like other reports such as the pavement analysis, the study of area municipal utility districts and the law enforcement report had.

The Villager submitted the TPIA request on Jan. 9, and received the township’s letter to Paxton asking for an exemption to releasing the documents on Jan. 24. The Villager staff posted the notification information on the newspaper’s related Facebook page, where several local residents posted statements about the denial.

Enrique Rosero, who has made numerous public comments at township Board of Directors meetings in the past year as well as been a local activist for several issues, questioned the original denial and asked about transparency with the incorporation process — something that several board members had touted as one of the township’s goal with the incorporation studies in their Jan. 23 meeting.

“Wow. There goes the transparency they promised,” Rosero posted in the discussion thread on Facebook. “This community needs in-depth analysis and objective facts on a massive decision like incorporation.”

Included among the comments was one from township director John McMullan, who wrote on The Villager Facebook page he had consulted with township President and General Manager Don Norrell about the issue on Friday after learning of the rejected request.

“In the last hour, I spoke twice with the township’s President and GM about this matter,” McMullan posted on Friday, Jan. 25. “I’ve been informed that (i) the document in question will be released and (ii) it was not originally released because it was a work-in-progress document at the time of the request.”

Within several hours of McMullan’s Facebook post, Norrell has contacted The Villager via email with news that the documents would be released.

Norrell emailed The Villager a statement about the documents, stating that “After a staff review this morning, the Matrix spreadsheet with be submitted to you today.”

Lisa Morris, the township’s account and public records analyst, verified Norrell’s email on Jan. 25, and emailed the documents to The Villager.

“The Township is providing the Matrix-related Financial Model in the attachment above and will be withdrawing its request to the (Texas) Attorney General for their review,” Morris wrote in an email.

Later that day, township records officials emailed a portion of the documents and data requested. Morris had also provided The Villager with a thumb-drive Friday morning, Jan. 25, that had dozens of documents saved on it related to the Matrix report that had not been contested. In addition to those documents, the township’s new incorporation information website — https://www.thewoodlandsincorporationstudy.com/ — went live on Thursday with links do all the incorporation study documents.