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Open Records FAQ

The Public Information Act

What is the Texas Public Information Act (the Act)?
The Texas Public Information Act (the "Public Information Act") was adopted in 1973 by the reform-minded Sixty-third Legislature. The Sharpstown scandal, which occurred in 1969 and came to light in 1971, provided the motivation for several enactments opening up government to the people. The Public Information Act is now codified in the Texas Government Code at Chapter 552. See the following web site for the text of the Act in its' entirety: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.552.htm

 

What types of records generally fall under the Act?
Public records include any information that is collected, assembled, or maintained by or for the Alamo. 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 the Alamo 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 Public Information Act. For example, if a consultant maintains or holds records for the Alamo, the documents are still considered public information if the Alamo owns the information or has a right of access to it.

 

Does Alamo staff have a special right of access to Alamo records?
An employee whose job requires or permits access to certain public records would have a special right of access to those records. The transfer of information to Alamo staff is not considered a release to the public and would not constitute selective disclosure.

 

Do outside governmental agencies have a special right of access to Alamo 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. For example, upon request, the Alamo must release certain salary and other personnel information to the Texas Attorney General's Office to enable collection of court-ordered child support payments.

 

What Constitutes An Open Records Request

To what Alamo officer/employee must an Open Records Request be directed?
Except in the case of faxed and email requests, the Public Information Act does not require that the public direct its open records requests to any specific Alamo employee or officer. Generally, the deadlines involved in handling an open records requests are not put on hold merely because the wrong staff member received the request. For this reason, it is important that the Alamo clearly inform all of its employees what to do if they receive a request for records. A written Open Records Request should be forwarded to the Alamo’s Chief of Staff and Chief Financial Officer for handling.

Submit an Open Records request to the Alamo.

 

Who can I contact at the Alamo if I have general questions about the Act?
Christina Robertson

Chief of Staff, Alamo Trust, Inc.

321 Alamo Plaza, Ste. 200

San Antonio, TX  78205

publicinformation@thealamo.org

 

What is the Alamo’s duty to respond to emailed or faxed requests for copies of records?
The Alamo has a duty to respond to any written requests for open records, including those that are made through email or fax. However, state law provides that the Alamo can designate a person that is authorized to receive email or faxed requests for open records. If the Alamo makes such a designation, the Open Records Act is only activated if the request is directed to the assigned individual. If the Alamo has not made such a designation, the email or faxed request can be directed to any Alamo official or staff member. Pursuant to Section 552.301(c), Government Code, the Chief of Staff has been designated to receive all electronic mail requests for public information. The Alamo is not responsible for responding to electronic mail and fax requests sent to any electronic mail address other than the email address for the Chief of Staff cited above.

 

Must the Alamo respond to verbal requests for copies of records?
If the Alamo provides copies of records upon verbal request, the Alamo must be consistent in its treatment of all requestors. In other words, if the Alamo does not require a written request from certain individuals, it should not insist on a written request from others. Nonetheless, state law allows the Alamo to require that all requests for copies of records be made in writing. In fact, the Public Information Act is only activated by a written request for documents.

 

What should an Open Records Request include?

Requests for records under the Public Information Act must be in writing. Including the following information in your request will help ensure that you receive the information you want:

Try to be as specific as possible about the information you are seeking.

 

How much does it cost to obtain copies of Alamo records?
Charges for copies of public information are set by the General Services Commission (GSC). In general, if the number of copies in your request is less than 50 pages, the charge will be $0.10 per page plus the cost of postage (or other delivery method, at your request). If the number of copies is more than 50 pages, the charge will be $0.10 per page plus personnel costs necessary to compile the documents, in addition to the postage. If the charge for fulfilling your requests exceeds $40, we 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 that you desire any stated alternative, or your request will be considered withdrawn. If the estimated charge is more than $100, the Alamo will generally require a prepaid deposit or bond before providing the information. Also, if you have an unpaid balance of more than $100 relating to previous requests, a prepaid deposit or bond will be required.

 

What other resources are available via the Web about the Act?

Office of the Attorney General:
https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/og/open-government-resources
https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/og/open-government

 

Administration of Open Records Requests

How much time does the Alamo have to comply with an Open Records Request?
The Alamo 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 the Alamo longer than ten business days to produce the records, the Alamo must certify that fact in writing to the requestor. In the notice, the Alamo must indicate a set date and hour within a reasonable time that the information will be made available for inspection or duplication.

 

When is the Alamo under a timing deadline to take a particular action when handling an Open Records Request?

The amount of time the Alamo has to produce copies of records will vary depending on the amount of information requested. However, there are six situations that present a timing deadline for the Alamo to take a particular action when handling an open records request.

  1. Notice to requestor that the Alamo needs additional time to produce records: If the Alamo is unable to produce a requested record within ten business days for inspection or for duplication, the Alamo must certify that fact in writing to the requestor and set a date and hour within a reasonable time that the information will be available for inspection or for duplication.
  2. Notice to requestor that the Alamo needs additional time to produce records that are in active use or in storage: If the Alamo needs additional time to produce a record because it is in active use or because it is in storage, the Alamo must notify the requestor of this fact. This notice must be given within ten business days of the Alamo's receipt of the request for the documents. The notice must set a date and hour within a reasonable time that the information will be available for inspection or duplication.
  3. Notice to requestor of programming or manipulation costs:
    • a statement that the information is/is not available in the requested form;
    • a description of the form in which the information is available;
    • a description of any contract or services that would be required to provide the information in the requested form;
    • a statement of the estimated cost of providing the information in the requested form as determined in accordance with the rules established by the General Services Commission under §552.262; and
    • a statement of the anticipated time required for us to provide the information in the requested form. Generally, this notice must be provided to the requestor within 20 days of the Alamo's receipt of the request.
  4. Request by the Alamo for an Open Record Ruling from the Attorney General: If the Alamo plans to withhold certain documents or information, it usually must request an Attorney General's ruling on the ability to withhold such information. The written request for an AG ruling must be made within ten business days of the Alamo's receipt of the request for the documents. However, the ten-day deadline is tolled during the time that the Alamo and the requestor are actively clarifying the scope of information requested.
  5. Notice to requestor that the Alamo sought an Attorney General Open Record Ruling: The Alamo must give written notice to the requestor if the Alamo seeks an AG open record ruling on the request. This notice must be given within ten business days of the Alamo's receipt of the request for the documents.
  6. Notice to Person or entity with proprietary interest in information of Attorney General Open Record Ruling Request: If an open records request may result in the release of proprietary information, the Alamo must make a good faith attempt to notify the person or entity that had such an interest of the request. The Alamo must send the written notice within 10 business days of the date the original request was received. This notice must include a copy of the request for information and a statement that the person is entitled to submit a letter, brief, or memorandum to the AG in support of withholding the information. The notice must inform the person that the briefing must state each reason the person has as to why the information should be withheld and the legal rationale supporting such an assertion. Any briefing by a person with proprietary interest must be provided within 10 business days from the date the written notice from the Alamo is received.

 

What procedures must be followed if a governmental body wishes to withhold information?

Within 10 business days of receiving a written request, the governmental body must:

Within 15 business days of receiving your request, the governmental body must: