The Texas Public Information Act, previously known as the Texas Open Records Act, was adopted in 1973 and provides the public a right of access to information collected, assembled, maintained, owned or controlled by a governmental body unless the information fits within one of the exceptions to disclosure. The act is found in Chapter 552 of the Texas Government Code.
Public information is defined as information “collected, assembled, or maintained in connection with the transaction of official business.” If information exists in a recorded format when a request is received, the information is subject to disclosure and cannot be destroyed, even if it is in a draft format. The act does not require disclosure of information that has not yet been recorded; as such, there is no obligation to create a record where one did not exist at the time of the request. Additionally, the act does not require institutions to answer questions when information is not in a recorded format.
The University of North Texas System and its component institutions are governmental bodies subject to the act. Any member of the public may make a written request for access to or copies of public information. Public information must be disclosed “promptly.” How promptly is a matter of how easily accessible the information is, whether the records contain confidential information that must be redacted prior to disclosure, and whether an Attorney General ruling must be sought with regard to information that is subject to an exception. Most records are provided within 10 days, but some requests are so complex and voluminous that it may be several weeks before access is granted or denied.
When a request for information is received, it should be forwarded to the OGC for immediate action. With limited exceptions, in order to withhold information the OGC must request an opinion from the Attorney General within ten business days from receipt of a request. Faculty members may release information from a student’s educational record directly to the student without sending the request to the OGC.