A while back we wrote about the Houston Airport System exporting its vast knowledge of running airports to countries all over the place. HAS wasn't too forthcoming about the financial aspects of it all.
A couple of months later, Mayor Bill White suddenly forced out the HAS director -- at least partly because of the foreign-country stuff -- the Chronicle tried to get answers about finances and was stonewalled too.
The reporters at the Texas Watchdog website have jumped into the fray, filing Open Records Act requests on things like HAS salaries, and they have discovered the same intransigence.
With a twist -- HAS claims it can't release salary information because it might compromise national security.
In a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott seeking a ruling on Texas Watchdog's request, HAS puts up just about every argument it can think of, including a claim that only the federal Transportation and Security Administration can rule on the issue.
They say the TSA can block the release of salary information because it can block the release of "any information that the TSA has determined may reveal a systematic vulnerability of the aviation system, or a vulnerability of aviation facilities, to attack."
Those wily Al-Qaeda plotters: "Look, Yusef, how incredibly overpaid these Houston bureaucrats are. Surely they will be spending their time buying luxury goods, leaving their aviation facilities vulnerable to attack!"
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Jennifer Peebles of Texas Watchdog says they will continue to fight to get the records.
"It's hard for me to see how the knowledge of whether the guy who patches potholes in the runways makes $20,000 a year or $25,000 is going to cause Osama bin Laden to suddenly show up on the moving walkway at Bush Intercontinental," she tells Hair Balls. "I dread terrorism, just like everyone else. But we're still a free country."
In a statement so cynical that it's blindingly obvious she's a socialist or one of them there rabble-rousers, she adds: "We can't just allow government to cry "homeland security!" and use that as a blanket excuse to withhold whatever they please."
It's now up to Abbott to rule on the request, although it sounds like -- even if he ordered HAS to open the books -- it won't end there.