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About 350 Fort Worth city workers have unpaid tickets, auditor finds

FORT WORTH -- More than 300 city employees have unpaid traffic tickets or other municipal court violations, officials said.

City Manager Dale Fisseler said earlier this month that he's trying to get employees to pay their fines. "We do hold our employees to a higher standard," Fisseler said in an Oct. 8 interview.

But lawyers for the city are fighting to keep the list secret.

Fisseler described the list in general terms Oct. 8, but he asked the city legal department to review it before releasing it. He said the list contains about 350 names but wasn't sure of the exact number. It wasn't clear whether any employees owed multiple fines or how old the violations were.

The list was compiled by the city auditor's office as part of an ongoing review of the municipal court system, which has been plagued by unpaid fines and other accountability issues.

The audit is expected to be finished around the end of November.

The city collects less than half the traffic fines and other fines that come through the court, according to a previous audit.

The list of employees was distributed to department heads, who were asked to counsel employees and get them to pay off the fines, Fisseler said.

"Eventually it might become a performance issue," if employees continue to have delinquent fines, he said.

A lawyer for the city contended that the list is exempt from public disclosure under an exception to the Texas Public Information Act. The law requires cities to turn over information if a citizen requests it. But it has several exceptions, including one for working papers of audits.

But Bill Aleshire, an Austin attorney who works for the Texas Freedom of Information Foundation, said the city's lawyers are missing the point. The Legislature granted that exception in order to make sure that auditors got a chance to finish their work. In this case, the information is already being distributed throughout City Hall.

"It's poor public policy," he said.