Stop the cover-up

The fight between The Examiner Newspaper and the city of Beaumont over records from the night Kendrick Perkins was arrested has little to do with Perkins and everything to do with city attorney Tyrone Cooper’s actions to keep the documents secret.

For months, Cooper has fought the newspaper and others to keep videos showing Perkins’ arrest from ever being viewed. Why? Most likely because Perkins let loose with a slew of curse words and incendiary remarks before and after he was taken into custody, according to police at the scene.

While the NBA star’s actions might not be the best thing for his image, his arrest and the circumstances around it are still public record. And the fact the city wants to make it “go away” is what has brought on the newspaper’s fight.

The city has done everything possible to play hide the ball on this issue, including stalling on seeking an opinion from the Texas attorney general until just before a hearing was to be held in district court to expunge Perkins’ record. Had the judge granted the expunction at the time, there would have been no need to ask for a ruling to determine if the records were public because they would have been destroyed. It was Cooper’s hope that the court would take action before the attorney general, but that wasn’t the case.

The Texas attorney general correctly ruled in favor of the newspaper and should be applauded for doing so. The ruling ordered the city to release videos of the arrest and documents involved but the city is fighting. And because the U.S. Postal Service is slow, the newspaper was not notified that it had won the case until the day after Judge Layne Walker signed an order to expunge Perkins’ record — an order that does not go into effect for 30 days.

The newspaper’s ruling came first and the records should be released. That’s why The Examiner sought a temporary restraining order to keep the city from destroying the documents it had requested until the legal matter could be resolved.

While the city may think this fight is about exposing the deeds of an NBA star, the real story is the cover-up by the city attorney’s office. That’s the story.

If anything should have been learned from Watergate, it’s that the cover up is almost always worse than the crime. Should Perkins have his record cleared? Maybe, but the city should also release the records in accordance with the law. In the end, whether the videos and other information are turned over, the public wins because The Examiner has helped shine a light on the back-room deals at city hall.