Dallas Police & Fire Pension Sues State to Keep Records on a Development Private
Even as the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System (DPFP) tries to deflect media attention from its shiny, shiny Museum Tower project, Courthouse News reports that it's also fighting to avoid releasing information on a different luxury developer, one that it wholly owns.
Photo by Brandon Thibodeaux No, not that luxury development.
The pension system filed a lawsuit in Travis County Court on Tuesday against the Attorney General's office, saying it doesn't need to release certain information about properties owned by its subsidiary, Knudson Luxury Housing. The AG's office had ordered the pension fund to release the information to the public.
This sort of thing actually happens with some frequency. Back in June, the Dallas Morning News asked for records on Knudson properties going back about six years. While the AG ruled that some of what the paper has asked for is exempt, it says the pension fund still has to provide the names of people who have rented Knudson properties in the past, leasing prices, and information on the relationships between Knudson and yet another company owned by the pension, GP Western Housing LLC.
A lot of folks are looking at DPFP's investments lately. We published our own story on the pension fund in July, detailing some other troubled real estate ventures the taxpayer-backed entity has invested in.
And we, too, had a bit of trouble getting DPFP to comply with an open records request, one in which we asked for information on all the alternative investments the fund is currently involved with, as well as any gains or losses to date. Despite repeated requests, the pension fund never gave us that information. Instead, we were eventually presented with a list of seven "successful investments" and some general information on how much money DPFP keeps with each investment adviser.
Pension fund administrator Richard Tettamant told me at one point that the pension fund has been "inundated" with open records requests and lacks the staff to fulfill them.
In the Travis County lawsuit, the pension system argues that revealing information on the past Knudson renters "would not just discourage some renters but would likely cause these unique properties to go completely vacant." It adds that "making such information public would destroy many hundreds of millions of dollars of property values that belong to the trusts that provide retirement, disability and death benefit protections to our governmental employees and their families." Revealing the renters would ultimately put the pension system at a "grave competitive disadvantage" with other property owners.
DPFP claims releasing the leasing prices of said properties would reveal "confidential and proprietary financial information and trade secrets of a realty management company." Which is probably exactly what Knudson tells people who are looking to rent one of their properties.
It's not uncommon for public entities to sue the AG's office when asked to fork over information they feel should rightfully remain unforked. Parkland Hospital has sued the Attorney General five times over open records requests, also from the DMN. Back in July, the State Bar of Texas sued after the AG ruled that Texas Lawyer magazine had a right to see records regarding an internal investigation conducted by the bar.
The pension system says it will withold all the disputed documents pending the outcome of the lawsuit.