BELTON — The governments of Bell County and Belton have a mainly bright history of being open with public information.
As a part of Sunshine Week, FME News Service is joining news organizations across the nation to celebrate access to public information and what it means for you and the community.
The Bell County Sheriff’s Department has been proactive with communicating to the public. When spokesman T.J. Cruz was in Virginia to attend an FBI Academy, the department had Lt. Donnie Adams act as its spokesman.
In June, the department required FME News Service to file an open records request for the names of five Bell County deputies who were cleared for being involved in a fatal shooting in July 2014. The department would later release the names on the day of FME’s request.
Following two open records request for dashcam video and an international review of the fatal shooting of Harker Heights resident Lyle P. Blanchard from FME News Service, the department is seeking an opinion from the Texas attorney general on whether it should release requested information.
FME News Service submitted the requests on Feb. 15 and 17.
The AG’s office has up to 45 business days to decide whether the sheriff’s department is required to release the requested information.
From Jan. 1, 2016, to Oct. 14, 2016, the city received more than 900 open records requests. Belton did not ask for an attorney general’s opinion on any of FME News Service’s open requests last year.
The city told FME in October it would need to file an open records request for arrest affidavits, which are considered public information. Belton changed course after realizing the affidavits could be released with minor redactions.
In January, Belton supplied documents detailing why a police officer was suspended in 2016 for two days without pay and information about the officer’s previous disciplinary issues.
All six council members and Mayor Marion Grayson completed their required open meetings training. City spokesman Paul Romer has completed his required training on the Open Meetings Act and the Public Information Act.
Staff writer Deborah McKeon contributed to this report.