Public Information Act
Texas State Technical College (TSTC) is committed to providing efficient service when responding to requests for public information. System Operating Standard GA.1.5.3. Texas Public Information Act (http://www.system.tstc.edu/governance/sos/ga/GA_1_5_3.pdf) sets forth procedures TSTC follows for complying with the Texas Public Information Act. For more information on the Public Information Act please see the Texas Attorney General Website (https://www.oag.state.tx.us/open/index.shtml).
I. Application of the Public Information Act
What is the Texas Public Information Act?
The Texas Public Information Act (the Act) was enacted to open up government to the people. The Act is codified in the Texas Government Code at Chapter 552.
What types of records generally fall under the Act?
Public records include any information that is collected, assembled, or maintained…by or for TSTC. The Act applies to records regardless of their format. It includes information that is maintained in paper, tape, microfilm, video, electronic data held in computer memory, as well as other mediums specified under law.
Are records that are kept or owned by a consultant to TSTC subject to the Act?
The fact that a private entity may own or retain a record does not prevent the record from being subject to release under the Act. For example, if a consultant maintains or holds records for TSTC, the documents are still considered public information if TSTC owns the information or has a right of access to it.
Do outside governmental agencies have a special right of access to TSTC records?
Outside governmental agencies whose function under state or federal law requires access to certain records generally have a right of access to such records. The transfer of information to such outside governmental agencies is not considered a release to the public and would not constitute selective disclosure.
II. What constitutes a Public Information Request?
To what TSTC officer must a request be directed?
Except in the case of faxes and e-mail requests, the Act does not require that the public direct its open records requests to any specific employee or officer. A written request for information should be forwarded to the Coordinator of Records Management for handling.
For mail delivery: Texas State Technical College
Attention: Jerry Sorrells, Coordinator of Records Management
3801 Campus Drive
Waco, Texas 76705
For fax delivery: 254.867.3927
For electronic mail delivery: email@example.com
Who can I contact at TSTC if I have general questions about the Texas Public Information Act?
Jerry Sorrells, Coordinator of Records Management, at 254.867.3922.
What is TSTC’s duty to respond to e-mailed or faxed requests for copies of records?
TSTC has a duty to respond to any written requests for records, including those that are made through e-mail or by fax. However, state law provides that TSTC can designate a person that is authorized to receive e-mail or faxed requests. If TSTC makes such a designation, the Public Information Act is only activated if the request is directed to the designated individual. If TSTC has not made such a designation, the e-mail or faxed request can be directed to any employee or officer. Pursuant to Section 552.301(c), Government Code, the Coordinator of Records Management has been designated to receive all electronic mail and fax requests for public information. TSTC is not responsible for responding to electronic mail and fax requests sent to any electronic mail address other than the email address for the Coordinator of Records Management cited above.
What is TSTC’s duty to respond to verbal requests for copies of records?
State law allows TSTC to require that all requests for copies of records be made in writing. The Act is only activated by a written request for documents. However, if TSTC provides copies of records upon verbal request, TSTC must be consistent in its treatment of all requestors. In other words, if TSTC does not require a written request from certain individuals, it should not insist on a written request from others.
How much does it cost to obtain copies of TSTC records?
Charges for copies of public information are set by the Office of the Attorney General. In general, if the number of copies in your request is less than 50 pages, the charge will be $.10 per page plus the cost of postage. If the number of copies is more than 50 pages, the charge will be $.10 per page plus personnel costs necessary to compile the documents and postage. If the charge for fulfilling your request exceeds $40, TSTC will provide you with an itemized written estimate of the charges and indicate if a less costly alternative is available. You must respond in writing within 10 days after the estimate is sent that you will accept the costs or you desire any stated alternative, or your request will be withdrawn. If the estimated charge is more than $100, TSTC will require a prepaid deposit or bond before providing the information.
III. Administration of Requests for Public Information
How much time does TSTC generally have to comply with a request for information?
TSTC must ‘promptly’ produce the public information. There is often a misconception that the Act requires copies of public information be produced within ten (10) days upon receipt of the written request. The Act states that all requests must be handled with good faith and must be accomplished within a reasonable time period. What is considered reasonable and prompt will vary depending on the number of documents sought by the requestor. In certain circumstances, the records can be produced in less than ten days. However, requests for a substantial number of documents may take several weeks to produce. If it will take TSTC longer than ten business days to produce the records, TSTC must certify that fact in writing to the requestor. In the notice, TSTC must indicate a set date and hour within a reasonable time that the information will be made available for inspection or duplication.
When is TSTC under a timing deadline to take a particular action when handling a request?
The amount of time TSTC has to produce copies of records will vary depending on the amount of information requested. However, there are several situations that present a timing deadline for TSTC to take a particular action when handling a request.
When is TSTC required to ask for a ruling from the Attorney General?
Some of the information maintained by TSTC may contain information that is not public, such as the following:
If you want to review or get copies of the non-public information listed above, it will be necessary for TSTC to request an AG opinion about this information. This non-public information will not be available for review until after the AG makes a decision about whether the information is public or not public. The AG has about 12 weeks to make a decision on whether the information is public or not public. If part of the information you requested is considered public information then you will be able to review or get copies of the public information, even if a request for an AG opinion is necessary regarding the non-public information. If public information and non-public information are both included in a single document, the document will be provided to you. However, the information believed to be non-public will be redacted (marked out) while the request for an AG opinion is pending.
What procedures must be followed if TSTC wishes to withhold information?
Within 10 business days of receiving a written request, TSTC must:
Within 15 business days of receiving a written request, TSTC must: