To start the interview process for this series of articles, Island Matters requested an interview with City Secretary/Public Information Officer and Board of Ethics Liaison Angelique "Nikki" Soto and Board Chair Christiana "Chrissy" Dijkman.
The email history
Island Matters reached out to Soto Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, to request the interviews. In the email thread disclosed to IM, Soto contacted Dijkman on Oct. 7 and wrote:
Please see below and let me know if you would like to schedule the interview with Island Matters.
After no response, Island Matters (IM) called Soto on Oct. 12 and asked for Dijkman's contact information, which Soto declined to provide. IM then contacted City Manager Randall "Randy" Smith for the information and was informed that Ms. Dijkman would reach out to IM.
Following up shortly with the request, Soto emailed IM on Oct.12 and wrote:
Apologies for the confusion.
I've forwarded your media request to Ms. Dijkman. The contact information for all committee members is the Staff Liaison assigned, which is me, and my information is below. I will resend your media request to her again, as she stated she would email you directly.
Dijkman reached out to IM within 20 minutes and wrote she was happy to respond to any questions via email.
When IM requested to meet in person, Dijkman again reiterated her email preference and added that it was also her employer's preference.
IM then requested to meet after work and in person, adding it would only be 30 minutes, to which Dijkman responded, "I really don't have any free time anytime soon."
IM requested a phone call on Friday, Oct. 21, and afterward, Dijkman became unresponsive.
Texas Public Information Act (TPIA)
"The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know."
– Texas Public Information Act
The public has the right to contact elected and appointed representatives directly.
Historically, committee board member information is accessible through public records for the public to access under the TPIA. Withholding this information would violate the act. On South Padre Island, under previous administrations, this information was available to the public on the City's website.
If the governmental body decides to withhold information, it must request an Attorney General (AG) opinion and state which exceptions apply.
Not only did Soto not disclose the information, but IM did not receive an AG letter to withhold information because committee records are public records.
The City of South Padre Island notifies applicants that whether or not they are appointed, their information will be publicly recorded following the TPIA and released to the public through agenda minutes available on the City's website.
"…this application and any other records obtained, collected, or otherwise prepared regarding this application shall be maintained in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act and the City of South Padre Island's document retention schedule."
This information is not attorney-client privileged or private. Soto has still not disclosed Mrs. Dijkman's contact information or any other committee members' contact information when requested by IM.
Part 3 of this series to follow