Ken Paxton

Questions Regarding Open Records Letter Rulings

Open Records Letter Rulings are limited to the particular information at issue in each particular request and limited to the facts as presented to us; therefore, unless explicitly stated otherwise in the ruling, a ruling must not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other information or any other circumstances.

Each ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor. For example, governmental bodies are prohibited from asking the attorney general to reconsider a ruling. Gov't Code § 552.301(f). If the governmental body wants to challenge a ruling, the governmental body must file suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. § 552.324(b). In order to get the full benefit of such a challenge, the governmental body must file suit within 10 calendar days. Id. § 552.353(b)(3). If the governmental body does not file suit over a ruling and the governmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the attorney general have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce the ruling. Id. § 552.321(a).

If the ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. Based on the Public Information Act, the attorney general expects that, upon receiving the ruling, the governmental body will either release the public information promptly pursuant to section 552.221(a) of the Government Code or file a lawsuit challenging the ruling pursuant to section 552.324 of the Government Code. If the governmental body fails to do one of these things, then the requestor should report that failure to the Office of the Attorney General's Open Government Hotline, toll free, at (877) 673-6839. The requestor may also file a complaint with the district or county attorney. Id. § 552.3215(e).

If the ruling requires or permits the governmental body to withhold all or some of the requested information, the requestor can challenge that decision by suing the governmental body. Id. § 552.321(a); Texas Dep't of Pub. Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App. -- Austin 1992, no writ).

Please remember that under the Public Information Act the release of information triggers certain procedures for costs and charges to the requestor. If information is released in compliance with a ruling, be sure that all charges for the information are at or below the legal amounts. Questions or complaints about over-charging must be directed to the Education and Enforcement Section of the Open Records Division at (888) OR-COSTS (672-6787) or (512) 475-2497.

A governmental body, the requestor, or any other person with questions or comments about a ruling may contact our office at the numbers given above. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the attorney general prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of the ruling.