Texas Open Records Laws
Which agencies are covered by the open records laws?
All governmental bodies are subject to the open records laws. This includes all committees, commissions, boards and agencies created by government. The basis for this is that the government works for the people, not the other way around.
In fact, if an entity receives or spends any public funds, it is subject to the open records laws.
In Texas, the open records laws are found in Section 552 of the Texas Government Code.
The law in Texas says: "Under the fundamental philosophy of the American constitutional form of representative government that adheres to the principle that government is the servant and not the master of the people, it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled, unless otherwise expressly provided by law, at all times to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees."
"The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know."
"The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created."
How do I request these records in Texas?
Put the request in writing. A sample request might say: "I am making a request for records under the Texas Public Information Act, Section 552 of the Texas Government Code. This law requires that the "Officer for Public Records shall promptly product such information for inspection or duplication, or both, in the offices of the governmental body." I request that the following records be made available to me: XXXXX."
Can I be forced to pay a fee for the records?
Yes, but government cannot use the fees as a means to discourage people from asking for information. If the cost is more than $40 for the copies, you are entitled to an itemized bill.
If the government decides that it's in the public's best interest to release the records, the copy fees can be waived.
For more information, go to www.oag.state.tx.us/AG_Publications/txts/2004publicinfohb_1_02.shtml.
Indiana Open Records Laws
OPEN DOOR LAW PRIMER
The law requires that all government agencies “exist only to aid in the conduct of the business of the people of this state.” Official actions of public agencies must be conducted in public, unless allowed to do otherwise by narrow exceptions in the law.
WHAT IS AN OFFICAL ACTION?
Official action is when a majority of a government agency gathers and receives information, deliberates, makes recommendations, establishes policy or makes decisions.
WHAT IS AN EXECUTIVE SESSION?
Local school boards can meet privately, not publicly, only if they plan to discuss:
- Strategy on collective bargaining, a pending legal matter or buying land.
- The alleged misconduct of an employee, student or contractor if the board is trying to decide how to react to or change the person’s status or an employee’s job performance evaluation.
- School safety or security.
- Reviewing applications or receiving information on prospective candidates for jobs.
- Records that must be kept confidential under federal or state law, such as student educational files.
- An individual student’s abilities, performance and behavior before placement in a program or designation.
- Discussion of appointment of a new school board member.
- Training the board with an outside consultant.
First a little history: The public access counselor’s office was established in 1999 by the General Assembly to help the public and government agencies understand the Indiana Open Door Law and the Indiana Access to Public Records Act.
The Open Door Law lets people attend meetings of the governing bodies of public agencies and lets in sunshine on governmental activities. The Access to Public Records Act allows access to public documents.
Most disputes arise over the definition of public records and meetings, and the access office has a 48-page handbook on its Web site with specifics of the laws and frequently asked questions.
The public access counselor is Karen Davis.
Here’s the contact information:
Telephone: (317) 233-9435 or (800) 228-6013
Office of the Public Access Counselor
W460, Indiana Government Center South
402 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
E-mail: via the web site: www.in.gov/pac/contact/
* Source: Office of the Public Access Counselor
Journalists are often those leading the fight for access to government records. Casting a little sunshine on government activities is often the best way to cure corruption and unfairness.
In a recent case that affects the availability of records to which citizens would have access, the Indiana Court of Appeals decided that a weekly newspaper (The Knightstown Banner) had a right to see details of a settlement that the town of Knightsville reached with a former employee, instead of hiding behind a statement that the details of the settlement were confidential. (See Knightstown Banner LLC v. Town of Knightstown, Governmental Insurance Managers Inc. and Governmental Interinsurance Exchange, (Ind. Ct. App. Dec. 14, 2005, case number 33A04-0504-C-200).
The court stated, “The APRA (Indiana Access to Public Records Act) codified at Ind. Code § 5-14-3-1 et seq., allows any person to inspect and copy the records of any public agency. …” It continued, “The overarching question of whether the settlement agreement drafted by an attorney retained by a public agency’s insurance company can be considered a public record, and therefore be subject to the requirements of APRA … compels us to interpret the relevant provisions of the statute. …” It said, “Based on the evidence before us, we conclude that the settlement agreement created by an attorney retained by a public agency’s insurance company to represent the public authority can be considered a public record, and therefore by subject to the requirements of APRA. … (D)elegating the responsibilities of creating, receiving, and retaining the settlement agreement to outside counsel does not thereby remove the document from the statute’s definition of public document.”
Indiana Coalition for Open Government
A group committed to ensuring access to public records and its contact information:
Marian McGrath Pearcy
Immediate Past President
Indiana Coalition for Open Government
317-927-8000 ext. 400
For more information, visit ICOG's website at: www.indianacog.org. This website includes a form letter that can be used to do your own open records request.
Top of Page