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Public Information and Open Records Requests

All Elected Officials are Public Information Officers for the records and information within their custodianship. To request public information, please contact that office directly.

How to Request Public Information

While there is no strict form required to request public information, there are certain guidelines that must be met. We have set forth the following tips to help you make a successful Public Information Act request.

Tips for Successful Open Records Requests from the Office of the Attorney General

  1. Your request must be in writing. Only written requests trigger a governmental body's obligations under the Public Information Act.
  2. Your request should be for documents or other information that is already in existence. Governmental bodies are not required to answer questions, perform legal research, or comply with a continuing request to supply information on a periodic basis as such information is prepared in the future.
  3. We recommend that all requests be sent by U.S. mail and that a copy of the original request and proof of its receipt by the governmental body be kept.
  4. We recommend that all requests be addressed to the Officer for Public Information or the chief administrative officer of the governmental body. Requests made by facsimile or electronic mail must be addressed to the Officer for Public Information or the chief administrative officer in order to trigger an obligation under the Public Information Act.
  5. If you believe that a governmental body has not responded as required by the Public Information Act, we recommend that you contact the Open Records Division Hotline at (512) 478-6736 or toll-free (877) 673-6839, your local District Attorney, or County Legal.

What Requestors Can Expect After a Request is Made

  • The governmental body must "promptly" produce public information in response to your request. "Promptly" means that a governmental body may take a reasonable amount of time to produce the information, which varies depending on the facts in each case. The amount of information you have requested is highly relevant to what makes for a reasonable response time.
  • The Public Information Act prohibits the governmental body from asking you why you want the information you have requested. The governmental body may, however, ask you to clarify your request if they are uncertain as to what you want, and they may discuss with you how the scope of your request may be narrowed if you have requested a large amount of information.
  • If the governmental body wishes to withhold information from you, it must:
    1. Seek an attorney general decision within ten business days of its receipt of your request and state the exceptions to disclosure that it believes are applicable. The governmental body must also send you a copy of its letter to the attorney general requesting a decision within ten business days. If the governmental body does not notify you of its request for an attorney general decision, the information you requested is generally presumed to be open to the public.
    2. Within fifteen business days of receiving your request, the governmental body must send the attorney general its arguments for withholding the information you requested and copies of the information you have requested. You are entitled to receive this notice, however, if the letter to the attorney general contains the substance of the information requested, you may receive a redacted copy of the letter. If the governmental body does not send you a copy of this letter, you may request it from the attorney general by writing to:
      Jordan Hale, Public Information Coordinator
      Office of the Attorney General
      P.O. Box 12548
      Austin, Texas 78711-2548
      FAX (512) 494-8017
      If the governmental body does not timely request an attorney general decision, notify you that it is seeking an attorney general decision, and submit to the attorney general the information you requested, the information is generally presumed to be open to the public.
  • If an attorney general decision has been requested, you may submit your written comments to the attorney general stating any facts you want the Open Records Division to consider. You may send your comments to:
    Office of the Attorney General
    Open Records Division
    P.O. Box 12548
    Austin, Texas 78711-2548
  • The Public Information Act expressly prohibits the attorney general from releasing the records.

Third Party Information

If you have requested information from a governmental body, and the information requested implicates a third party's interests, that third party may send a letter or brief to the attorney general stating why its information that is held by a governmental body should be withheld. This occurs, for example, in instances where a requestor has asked a governmental body for a copy of a proposal that a certain individual or business has made to a governmental body. In such an instance, you should receive a copy of that third party's letter to the attorney general, however, if the letter to the attorney general contains the substance of the information you requested, you may receive a redacted copy.
 

 

 

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