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TX Court of Appeals Finds Alleged Violations of the Texas Public Information Act were Sufficient to Survive Summary Judgment

This post was authored by Matthew Loescher, Esq.

Groba owned property within the City of Gelena Park and applied for a permit to build a quadruplex on that property. The City rejected his application, and Groba was advised that a new City ordinance prevented him from building a multi-family unit on his property. Groba’s attorneys filed an “open records request” with the City seeking “production of all ordinances relevant to the location, placement, and general existence of duplexes within the City of Galena Park.” In October 2019, Groba’s attorneys sent a letter to the Texas Attorney General complaining about the City’s failure to comply with the records request and requesting the attorney general’s assistance, nut received no response. Groba ultimately sued the City and several individuals in their official capacities. The judge later granted City’s motion and dismissed all of Groba’s claims with prejudice. Groba timely appealed. The appeal was assigned to the Houston First Court of Appeals, and the Texas Supreme Court transferred it to this court.

The City raised one summary-judgment ground against Groba’s claim for mandamus relief from the denial of his building permit application: Groba had no evidence that his permit application complied with all relevant laws and building codes, as would have been necessary for approval. The court found Groba’s affidavit, standing alone, was too conclusive to assemble competent summary judgment evidence on the question of whether his permit application complied with all applicable laws and building codes. Accordingly, the court held that the trial judge did not err by granting summary judgment on Groba’s claim challenging the City’s denial of his building-permit application.

The City raised one summary-judgment ground against Groba’s claim for mandamus relief relating to alleged violations of the Texas Public Information Act (“TPIA”). Under the TPIA, Groba was entitled to a writ of mandamus compelling the City to make information available for public inspection if the City refused to request an attorney general’s decision no later than the tenth business day after receiving Groba’s written request. Because the court found that Groba raised a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the City violated the TPIA, it sustained this appellate issue in part and reversed the summary judgment with respect to Groba’s claim for mandamus relief under the TPIA.

Groba v City of Gelena Park, 2022 WL 16549068 (TX App. 10/31/2022)