The Public Information Act
Texas Government Code, Chapter 552 gives you the right to access government records; and an officer for public information and the officer's agent may not ask why you want them. All government information is presumed to be available to the public. Certain exceptions may apply to the disclosure of the information. Governmental bodies shall promptly release requested information that is not confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision, or information for which an exception to disclosure has not been sought.
Certain information may be confidential under the Texas Public Information Act, Tex. Government Code Ann. Chapter 552. For instance, any complaints and/or investigative information involving hospitals on or after August 30, 1999, may be confidential and not releasable under the Public Information Act and the Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. Section 241.051(d).
If you request information that is not releasable or non-existent, you will be informed.
Rights of Requestors
You have the right to:
- Prompt access to information that is not confidential or otherwise protected;
- Receive treatment equal to all other requestors, including accommodation in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements;
- Receive certain kinds of information without exceptions, like the voting record of public officials, and other information;
- Receive a written statement of estimated charges, when charges will exceed $40, in advance of work being started and opportunity to modify the request in response to the itemized statement;
- Choose whether to inspect the requested information (most often at no charge), receive copies of the information or both;
- A waiver or reduction of charges if the governmental body determines that access to the information primarily benefits the general public;
- Receive a copy of the communication from the governmental body asking the Office of Attorney General for a ruling on whether the information can be withheld under one of the accepted exceptions, or if the communication discloses the requested information, a redacted copy;
- Lodge a written complaint about overcharges for public information with the Texas Building and Procurement Commission. Complaints of other possible violations may be filed with the county or district attorney of the county where the governmental body, other than a state agency is located. If the complaint is against the county or district attorney, the complaint must be filed with the Office of Attorney General.
Responsibilities of Governmental Bodies
All governmental bodies responding to information requests have the responsibility to:
- Establish reasonable procedures for inspecting or copying public information and inform requestors of these procedures;
- Treat all requestors uniformly and shall give to the requestor all reasonable comfort and facility, including accommodation in accordance with ADA requirements;
- Be informed about open records laws and educate employees on the requirements of those laws;
- Inform requestors of the estimated charges greater than $40 and any changes in the estimates above 20 percent of the original estimate, and confirm that the requestor accepts the charges, or has amended the request, in writing before finalizing the request;
- Inform the requestor if the information cannot be provided promptly and set a date and time to provide it within a reasonable time;
- Request a ruling for the Office of Attorney General regarding any information the governmental body wishes to withhold, and send a copy of the request for ruling, or a redacted copy, to the requestor;
- Segregate public information from information that may be withheld and provide that public information promptly;
- Make a good faith attempt to inform third parties when their proprietary information is being requested from the governmental body;
- Respond in writing to all written communications from the Texas Building and Procurement Commission regarding charges for the information. Respond to the Office of Attorney General regarding complaints about violations of the Act.
Procedures to Obtain Information:
Requests must be in writing.
State if you want copies or if you would like to review the items.
Reasonably identify the records you are requesting:
- Name of the facility or name of person.
- Address of facility (to include: physical address, suite number, city and ZIP CODE)
- Specify what you want, i.e.: application, permit, permit number/identifying numbers, procedures, inspection.
- A time frame in which you need the requested information (i.e. 2006-2007 or inspection report dated October 7, 2006).
Be as specific as possible about the information you are seeking. If you need assistance identifying records maintained by the file room, you may contact:
AVC Open Records MC 1987
Texas Department of State Health Services
P. O. Box 149347
Austin, Texas 78714-9347
Phone: (512) 834-6787
Fax: (512) 834-6726
E-mail: Environmental Health Group Open Records
Your request should include your name, address, e-mail address (if you have one), daytime phone number and your fax number (if requesting a few pages, we may be able to fax the information to you).
Please be advised that there may be a charge for the information you are requesting.
The following are links to additional resources regarding Open Records:
The Texas Department of State Health Services, Internal Open Records Policy
The Office of Attorney General of Texas