How does the Public Information Act work?
The Texas Public Information Act gives the public the right to look at or copy government information. Any member of the public may request access to this information. The request must be in writing and must be addressed to the governmental body. Currently, all public information requests are handled by the Office of General Counsel. Requests for information sent to other departments will be forwarded to the Office of General Counsel.
How long does it take to receive information?
Information must be provided within a reasonable time. The governmental body must inform the requestor if it will take more than 10 days to make the information available. How long it takes to make information available depends on how easily accessible the information is, whether the records contain confidential information that must be removed prior to making it available, and whether the information has to be obtained from a computer.
Is all information available to the public?
Most but not all information is available to the public. Generally, if the UNT System or one of its component institutions wishes to withhold information from the public because the information is confidential or otherwise not required to be disclosed under the Public Information Act, it must request a ruling from the Attorney General Open Records Division within 10 days of receipt of the request for information. Generally, a request for a ruling is necessary even when the Attorney General has determined that similar but not identical information does not have to be disclosed. The Attorney General typically issues a ruling within 45 days from the request.
What types of information can be withheld under the Public Information Act?
Information that is confidential, private in nature, protected from disclosure under federal or state law, and information about which the public does not have a legitimate interest in knowing generally is not open to the public. Some examples of information that is not open to the public are: social security numbers, federal tax returns, medical information, student education records, information related to competitive bidding, information related to the price or appraisal of real property the UNT System has an interest in acquiring, trade secrets, law enforcement matters that are under investigation or prosecution, internal audit work papers, tests and answer keys, personal credit and debit card information, the identity of private donors, the home addresses, telephone numbers and personal email addresses of employees who wish this information to remain private, and information relating to technological and scientific research being conducted by university and health science center faculty members.
Is there a charge for obtaining information under the Public Information Act?
There is no charge for obtaining fewer than 50 pages of information and generally there is no charge for inspecting information. A charge may be assessed when inspecting information if it is necessary to delete confidential information that cannot be disclosed to the public. There also may be a charge assessed to recover some of the cost of providing more than 50 pages of information. An itemized invoice shows the charges that can be charged when a fee is assessed.
If a Public Information Act request is made for messaging or files on a personal device, how should I give those to the university to fulfill my obligation to preserve the information? Will I have to surrender my phone or device?
Employees do not have to surrender their personal devices. Upon receipt of a request for information, the Public Information Office notifies employees who may have information that is responsive to the request and asks them to search for the information. Each employee is individually responsible for searching for responsive information, wherever it may be, and for providing it to the Public Information Office.
What if I have questions about whether information on my personal device is public information?
Remember that all information that relates to official UNT business, regardless of where it is stored is public information. When responding to a Public Information Act request, you should provide the Public information Office all information that might be public information. The Public Information Office will review the information and determine if the information you provided must be release or, in consultation with the appropriate UNT officials, ask the Office of the Attorney General if the information can be protected from disclosure. Learn more about the Public Information Act and responding to public information requests.
How does the process of turning over text messages to the university for preservation work?
You can send the information to your UNT email account and maintain the records in accordance wwith your office's procedures to prevent inadvertent or automatic deletion. The Public Information Office is working with the Chief Compliance Officer and Records Compliance Officer to develop other options.
What if my personal practice has been to “clean out” my text messages on a routine basis and I have deleted messages from my device between Sept. 1 and now?
Check your device for a “trash” or “deleted” file and retrieve the messages. If the messages are no longer on your device, you should begin a practice of routinely transferring future messages to a UNT server or alternatively archiving public information on your device.