One of the most important laws regarding government transparency in Texas is the Public Information Act. It grants members of the public the right to request government records, as long as the records are not confidential. All government entities must comply with this law, so it is important for municipalities to understand their rights and obligations.
Responsibilities and rights
Under Texas law, anyone can request public records without having to provide an explanation. The Public Information Act stipulates that all governmental bodies have certain obligations. These include:
- Staying informed of public records laws.
- Following reasonable procedures for supplying public records.
- Treating all requestors uniformly and in accordance with the ADA.
- Producing the public records as promptly as possible.
- Telling requestors about the estimated charges for supplying public records.
Fortunately, governmental bodies also have certain rights protected by the Public Information Act, such as:
- Requesting a ruling from the Office of the Attorney General for information that the municipality wishes to withhold.
- Setting a reasonable timeline for providing records to the requestor.
- Stablishing their own procedures for providing public records.
- Separating information that may be withheld from public information.
- Charging a reasonable fee for finding and producing public records.
More details addressing rights and obligations regarding public records is available in the Texas Government Code, Chapter 552.
The importance of access to public records
Sometimes, providing public records is in conflict with the interests of municipalities. However, transparency from government entities is an important right for Texans. It ensures that the people always have access to important, non-classified information from public entities. Municipalities are integral in upholding this right. However, it is also important that they remember their own rights as protected by the Public Information Act.