District unwilling to release documents until a decision is made on a lawsuit.
By Kyle R. Cotton
After a three-month wait, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has ruled in favor of The Ranger to release documents explaining why Dr. Craig Follins was removed from his position as Northeast Lakeview president.
The ruling arrived via mail Tuesday at district offices.
The district declined to provide those documents Dec. 10, citing two exceptions as cause to withhold the documents in a request to the attorney general.
The first exception states the files are confidential by common-law privacy, as disclosing documents in a personnel file constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
The second states the documents contain potentially embarrassing information that is of no interest to the public.
Despite the ruling, the district still will not release the records, claiming it has 30 days to decide to file suit against the office of the Texas attorney general.
If the district does not file suit within those 30 days, they must comply with the decision.
Associate general counsel Roxella Cavazos said she did not know if the district would file suit, but she would inform The Ranger as soon as a decision was made by the administration.
In response to The Ranger’s November request under the Public Information Act to find out why Follins was removed from his position, the Alamo Colleges took the entire 10 days the law allows before responding or asking for a decision.
Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said she was happy with the attorney general’s decision
“The public has the right to know about the management of a taxpayer-funded institution and the cause for a leader’s removal,” Shannon said. “I would encourage the district not to file suit and release the documents.”
Follins would not comment on any of the questions posed to him regarding his removal or his new position as special projects administrator, for which he is being paid the same $205,387.03 he was paid as president of NLC.
As special projects administrator, Follins offices with Chancellor Bruce Leslie and analyzes and provides recommendations on market opportunities for distance learning, according to the memorandum Leslie sent Follins Oct. 29.
Follins was put on administrative leave after his removal until he finished discussions with district human resources and legal officials, allowing his employment to go forward.
When asked if he plans to stay on in that position, Follins said he would not give a direct answer and simply said wherever he goes, his main focus is on student success.
Follins’ answer to every question posed was, “I’m in a position where I’m looking to add value to other colleges. I’ve got a family to support, I’ve got children, and I want to redirect this to how it impacts me and what I do in the future.”