Commentary: Perry's office must release Willingham clemecy report

The Texas Public Information Act contains straightforward procedures.

When a member of the public requests public information from a public agency, the documents must be provided "promptly." If officials believe that the information is not public, the agency has 10 business days to ask the Texas attorney general whether it must be disclosed.

The agency must also tell the requester what’s being withheld and that an AG’s opinion is being sought.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and his staff must know this; the Public Information Act is neither new nor foreign to the governor’s office. A 288-page handbook on the law is available on the Texas attorney general’s Web site, and his staff operates a hot line for questions about compliance.

But when a Houston Chronicle reporter asked for a comprehensive set of documents about the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, Perry’s staff left out the clemency report he had reviewed before denying a 30-day reprieve.

The governor’s office didn’t request an attorney general’s ruling on whether the document could be withheld and didn’t even tell the reporter it wasn’t providing all she had requested.

That’s not the kind of public service Texans expect for their tax dollars.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.