Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

August 8, 2000

CORNYN FILES SUIT TO ENFORCE PUBLIC INFORMATION ACT

Plano Police Department must release records

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn today announced a lawsuit against the Plano Police Department for refusing to supply requested information without seeking a ruling from the Attorney General's office. The lawsuit seeks a writ of mandamus compelling the Plano Police Department to release the information.

"Citizens and governmental entities may disagree about whether or not a particular piece of information is considered an open record. In these instances, the law provides that it is the Attorney General's responsibility to resolve the dispute-not the governmental body," said Attorney General Cornyn. "I will continue to enforce our Public Information Act and protect the public's access to open records."

Last spring, a citizen requested a copy of all records, including video and audio tapes, relating to a Plano Police Department arrest. Although they provided the citizen with some basic information about the arrest, the police department denied release of the most responsive information. Instead of seeking a ruling from the Attorney General, the police department unilaterally rejected the citizen's request for information claiming a law enforcement exception to disclosure. Under the Public Information Act, the police department was obligated to seek a ruling from the Attorney General on whether the exception they claimed actually applied.

By law, the police department had 10 days to request a ruling from the Attorney General's office. The time for requesting a ruling has expired, and the law provides that in failing to seek a ruling, they waived the exception. Therefore, the information is considered an open record and must be released.

The lawsuit was filed in state district court in Travis County. The lawsuit was triggered by a complaint by the original requestor to the Open Government Hotline, which is a service of the Office of the Attorney General. The Hotline's toll free number is 877/OPEN-TEX or 877/673-6839. In addition to receiving complaints, the Hotline also answers questions about the Public Information Act and the Open Meetings Act. Last year, the Hotline handled a total of 5,133 phone calls. The Hotline is on target to handle over 12,600 calls this year--a 145% increase.

Over the last two years, the Attorney General's office has sponsored eight regional open government conferences to educate local government officials of their responsibilities under the law. There are two more regional conferences planned in Lubbock on Aug. 11 and in Weslaco on October 13, and these conferences are open to the public.

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Contact Mark Heckmann, Heather Browne, or Tom Kelley at (512) 463-2050
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