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Explainer (part two): the Texas Public Information Act

On Behalf of | Aug 14, 2020 | Government Ethics And Compliance |

Regular readers of our municipal law blog will undoubtedly recall that we recently wrote about the Texas Public Information Act. Please check out that July 28 introductory post. At the end of it, we promised to pick up the topic where we left off: exceptions to the requirement that government information is available upon request to the public.

Physical exclusions

Though the Public Information Act applies to physical evidence, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton writes, “the prevailing view is that tangible items such as a tool or a key used to protect public property are not ‘information’ within the Act.”

Paxton also notes that he declined a request for the source code of computer programs used by a state university, stating that the codes and program documentation “contained security measures designed to prevent unauthorized access to student records.”

Personal information

State law also excludes “protected health information” from being disclosed under the Public Information Act. Personal notes and emails in personal accounts or on personal devices are likewise excluded, Paxton writes.

What counts as personal notes? Notes that are not “information collected, assembled, or maintained by governmental bodies pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business.”

Please note that the Attorney General cautions governmental bodies to “use caution in relying on early open records decisions that address ‘personal notes.’ ”

Other materials excluded from the Act: copies of commercially available publications, books and resource materials. Those items include dictionaries, phone books (those these are hard for anyone to find these days), encyclopedias, periodicals and statutes.

We will have more on the Texas Public Information Act in coming days. Please check back for those posts or please contact our office to discuss legal representation.



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