Temple Daily Telegram outlines rights, responsibilities in open records requests

By JANICE GIBBS
Temple Daily Telegram
Originally published Oct. 14, 2013

Most information generated by a governmental entity, with a few exceptions, is public.

“People need to remember the government works for them, we elect the government, we’re a democracy,” said Kelley Shannon, executive director of Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. “They should go in confidently knowing they have a right to review information they are asking for.”

Any written request needs to be specific.

“If it’s too broad, it doesn’t help the government official find the information you’re looking for and help you get that information,” she said.

The written request doesn’t have to be in any special language. The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas has sample letters on its Website at www.foift.org.

Rights of requesters

  • All people who request public information have the right to:
  • Receive treatment equal to all other requesters.
  • Receive a statement of estimated charges in advance.
  • Choose whether to inspect the requested information, receive a copy of the information or both.
  • Be notified when the governmental body asks the state attorney general’s office for a ruling on whether the information may or must be withheld.
  • Be copied on the governmental body’s written comments to the attorney general stating the reason why the stated exceptions apply.
  • Lodge a complaint with the attorney general’s cost rules administrator regarding any improper charges for responding to a public information request.
  • Lodge a complaint with the attorney general’s Hotline or the county attorney or criminal district attorney, as appropriate, regarding any alleged violation of the act.

Responsibilities of requesters

All people who request public information have the responsibility to:

  • Submit a written request according to a governmental body’s reasonable procedures.
  • Include enough description and detail of the requested information so that the governmental body can accurately identify and locate the requested items.
  • Cooperate with the governmental body’s reasonable requests to clarify the type or amount of information requested.
  • Respond promptly in writing to all written communications from the governmental body, including any written estimate of charges.
  • Make a timely payment for all valid charges.
  • Keep all appointments for inspection of records or for pick-up of copies.