By Lashonda Cooks, Special to NNPA from The Dallas Examiner –
Two months after the city's biggest newspaper and its attorneys requested all records and police reports regarding the Jan. 2ND Caraway domestic incident, it - and the rest of the world - can finally put their curiosity to rest and hear exactly what occurred that fateful evening within the mayor's household. The Dallas Morning News' request on the week of Jan. 14 sparked a tabloid-like frenzy amongst six other area news outlets to force the city to release the information under the open records law.
Initially, the city attorney's office was skeptical. The office questioned whether the records should be withheld based on Mayor Dwaine Caraway's right to privacy. According to privacy law, information can be withheld, if it both contains "highly intimate or embarrassing fact" and is of "no legitimate concern to the public."
The city attorney's office consulted the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for advice. The Dallas Morning News also contacted the attorney general with a letter arguing in favor of the document's release. The letter maintained that the records are of legitimate concern to the public because Caraway leveraged his position as a public official throughout the incident. It referenced how Caraway directly contacted Police Chief David Brown instead of calling 9-1-1 as one of the reasons for the records' release. Ultimately, Abbott agreed that the records should be made public.
In response, on March 8, Caraway sued Abbott and the City of Dallas and received a temporary restraining order preventing the records' release until a hearing on March 22 stressing its importance to protecting his family's privacy. To counter, The Dallas Morning News' attorneys filed a plea for intervention of Caraway's suit, stating that Caraway "cannot meet his high burden of proof to show the information is not of legitimate public concern."
Last Week, Caraway and his lawyer Michael Payma lost their bid for an extension of the restraining order. The records, including a 20-minute audio recording taped on the evening of the incident without Caraway's knowledge, were released. The audio detailed a private statement regarding an altercation between the mayor and his wife State Representative Barbara Caraway.
Immediately after the tape was released, the mayor issued an official statement. The statement is below:
"I have contended from the start that the recording contains deeply personal and private information. There is no public interest in this information and I have made every effort to protect my family's privacy. But I respect the ruling of the court and it's time to move on. This morning, I assembled top City Staff and asked them to join me in focusing on the important issues in front of our city - reducing crime, attracting jobs and businesses, getting through another tough budget year and moving Dallas forward. I will not be discussing this issue further."
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