The Attorney General is responsible for ensuring that Texas government is open and accessible to all citizens. Part of this responsibility includes interpreting and enforcing Texas’ open government laws, the Public Information Act and the Open Meetings Act.
Educating citizens and governmental entities of their rights and obligations under these laws and enforcing, when necessary, the Public Information Act are means by which the attorney general’s office can ensure that governmental bodies take their open government obligations seriously. In doing so, we further our commitment to ensuring that government operates in the sunshine.
The Public Information Act (formerly known as the Open Records Act) provides a mechanism for citizens to inspect or copy government records. It also provides for instances in which governmental bodies may withhold government records from the public.
Upon receipt of a public information request, a governmental body generally is required within ten business days to either provide access to the requested information or request an attorney general ruling on whether the information can be withheld.
If a governmental body fails to respond to your request for information or request an attorney general ruling within ten business days, you may file a written complaint with the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General. Please be sure to include with your complaint a copy of your original request for information and any other supporting documentation that may help us resolve your complaint. For more information on the Public Information Act, including the requirements for a valid request for public information, please see our Public Information Handbook.
Complaints can also be filed against governmental bodies that fail to comply with an attorney general ruling. Therefore, if, after a reasonable amount of time, a governmental body does not release information to you in accordance with an attorney general ruling, we encourage you to send a written complaint to the Open Records Division.
Additionally, complaints may be filed against governmental bodies if requestors believe they are being overcharged for a copy or inspection of public information. The attorney general promulgates cost rules regarding the charges and methods of calculations. These rules are mandatory for all governmental bodies, except to the extent that other laws establish charges for specific kinds of information.
A complaint of overcharges must be filed no later than ten business days after the requestor knows of the occurrence of the alleged overcharge. Be sure to include a copy of the original request and any correspondence from the governmental body stating the charges. Complaints may be sent directly to the Cost Rules Administrator of the Open Records Division.
The Open Meetings Act provides that meetings of governmental bodies must be open to the public except for expressly authorized executive sessions. The Act also provides that the public must be given notice of the time, place, and subject matter of meetings of governmental bodies.
District courts have jurisdiction over criminal violations of the Act as misdemeanors involving official misconduct. Thus, Open Meetings Act complaints should be presented to the county attorney or criminal district attorney. The Office of the Attorney General has no independent enforcement authority under the Act. For more information on the Open Meetings Act, please see our Open Meetings Handbook.
The Open Records Division also provides an Open Government Hotline staffed by attorneys who specialize in both the Public Information Act and the Open Meetings Act. They can answer questions and help resolve disputes involving open government laws. Hotline staff cannot, however, provide legal advice to private citizens or governmental entities.
The Hotline can be reached at (512) 478-OPEN (6736) or toll-free at (877) OPEN TEX (673-6839). Please note that we receive a large number of calls to our Hotline. Therefore, if our staff is not immediately available to answer your call, please leave a message, including your name and telephone number, and someone will return your call as soon as possible.