Fort Worth Councilman Cary Moon said Tuesday he will release the results of a Senate Bill 4 survey conducted last year on his website, CaryMoon.com, just weeks after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ruled the data is not public information.
The survey was conducted before the City Council’s 5-4 vote on Aug. 14 against joining Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin and El Paso in a lawsuit challenging SB4, known as the state’s “sanctuary cities” law. Moon voted against joining the litigation.
“Now that the attorney general has ruled in support of the way my office handled its business, I can release some data without names,” said Moon, who represents District 4.
Moon said he plans to release the survey results by Thursday evening. He added that he will also release “other SB4 data,” however he declined to discuss specifics of the additional material.
The survey asked constituents to click “yes” or “no” to the question if Fort Worth should join other cities in the suit against SB4. It also asked for the participant’s name, address, email and cell phone number. Participants who did not want their vote published could check a box marked “Don’t publish my response on the website.”
Those votes, some 700, according to Moon, were overwhelmingly against joining the SB4 litigation. That goes against the 287 votes that were published, 210 of which favored joining the litigation.
Earlier this month the attorney general ruled the non-published votes were not public information after the grassroots organization United Fort Worth, formed to support joining the litigation, and the Star-Telegram asked for all results through separate public information requests.
United Fort Worth argued Moon is hiding information that supports their position.
Moon said the results he will release later this week will “absolutely” show the majority of participants who did not want their votes published were against joining the litigation.
Moon said he has already handed over those survey results to city attorneys.
“But I said don’t release that unless the AG says that I have to, because I felt it was campaign information, paid for by campaign money,” Moon said Tuesday
The attorney general’s Jan. 3 opinion agreed with Moon’s argument that the website is for his campaign and paid for with political contributions and not government funds. Information garnered on the website is not subject to the state’s Public Information Act.
Paxton’s ruling went on to say: “The campaign further explains the information at issue was collected to question voters about the specific topic, solicit volunteers and support, communicate with the electorate, and further build the campaign’s database. The campaign and the city also state no city staff, resources, or funds were used to collect, assemble, or maintain the information at issue.”
Moon said he has personally invested “tens of thousands of dollars” on NationBuilder software, which he uses to compile constituent profiles and track constituent interactions such as email correspondence and Facebook likes.
Mindia Whitter, a United Fort Worth organizer, argued that Paxton’s decision “undermines the public trust and sets a dangerous precedent by giving permission for any elected official to use campaign resources to circumvent the Public Information Act.
She said Moon’s survey was used to help him make a decision on official city business and that Moon “used a loophole to avoid transparency.”
Moon said he followed the rules from “Day One.” He said he agreed to release the previously non-published votes now that he can do so without releasing the names of the participants.
“Unequivocally, the people on that survey voted not to join the litigation,” Moon said.