The Public Information Act
The Public Information Act (Act) gives the public the right to request access to government information. Although the Act makes most government information available to the public, some exceptions exist. Further, the Act does not apply to the federal government or to any of its departments or agencies. If you are seeking information from the federal government, the appropriate law is the federal Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). FOIA’s rules and procedures are different from those of the Act.
How to Request Information
A request for public information must be made in writing. Your request should include your name, address, and as much description as you can provide regarding the records you are seeking. You should also include your contact information. You must request records or information that is already in existence. The Act does not require a governmental body to create new information, to do legal research, or to answer questions.
You may send your request to:
Release of Information
A governmental body must release public information promptly. “Promptly” means as soon as possible under the circumstances, within a reasonable time, and without delay. If the information you request cannot be produced within 10 business days, you will be notified, in writing, of a reasonable date and time when it will be made available to you.
However, not all information is subject to release. Some documents may be releasable, but may require redaction of certain information. Examples of items that must be redacted include: social security numbers, dates of birth, certain e-mail addresses, account numbers, and information relating to an individual’s mental health, criminal history, and/or substance use disorder.
Other information must be withheld in its entirety. The most common examples of information that must be withheld in its entirety include: complaint information, investigative files, and disciplinary hearing materials.
If a governmental body seeks to redact or withhold information responsive to an open records request, the governmental body must seek a decision from the Office of the Attorney General. Requestors may send a letter to the Office of the Attorney General arguing for release of the requested information. The Attorney General must issue a decision no later than the 45th business day from the day the Attorney General received the request for the decision. Additionally, the Attorney General may request an extension of 10 additional business days. You will receive a copy of a request for a decision from the Office of the Attorney General and the Attorney General’s decision.
A person may ask to view public information, receive copies of information, or both. If a request is for copies of information, the governmental body may charge the requestor for the copies. If a request is only for an opportunity to inspect information, then usually the governmental body may not impose a charge on the requestor. However, under certain limited circumstances, a governmental body may impose a charge for access to information. All charges imposed by a governmental body for copies or for access to information must comply with the rules prescribed by the Office of the Attorney General, unless another statute authorizes a governmental body to set its own charges.
For complaints related to open records requests, you may contact the Office of the Attorney General’s Open Records Hotline at 512-478-6736, or toll-free at 1-877-673-6839.
For more information, contact: OpenRecords@bon.texas.gov
Updated October 18, 2016