Texas Government Code, Chapter 552 (the Texas Public Information Act), gives you the right to access government records and government officials 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 or information for which an exception to disclosure has not been sought.
Rights of Requestors
Requestors 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;
- Notice when the governmental body asks the Office of the Attorney General for a ruling on whether the information can be withheld under one of the accepted exceptions;
- Lodge a complaint about charges for public records or a complaint related to other possible violations with the county attorney, criminal district attorney, or the Office of the Attorney General.
Responsibilities of Governmental Bodies
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 equally, 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, and confirm that the requestor agrees in writing to pay the costs 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;
- Ask for a ruling from the Office of the Attorney General regarding any information to be withheld, and inform the requestor of this request for ruling;
- Segregate public information from information that may be withheld and provide that public information promptly;
Inform third parties if their proprietary information is being requested from the governmental body;
- Respond in writing to all written communications from the Office of the Attorney General regarding complaints about violations of the Act.
Responsibilities of Requestors
- Submit a request by mail, fax, e-mail or in person according to a governmental body's reasonable procedures.
- Include enough description and detail about the information requested to enable the governmental body to accurately identify and locate the information requested.
- Cooperate with the governmental body's reasonable efforts to clarify the type or amount of information requested.
- Keep appointments to inspect records or pick up copies or risk losing the opportunity to see the information.
If the information requested cannot be compiled by the agency within 10 working days, the public information officer will notify you in writing of the reasonable date and time when it will be available.
Cost of Records
- You must respond to any written estimate of charges within 10 days of the date the governmental body sent it, or the request may be deemed withdrawn.
- If estimated costs exceed $100 (or $50 if a governmental body has fewer than 16 full-time employees) the governmental body may require a bond, prepayment or deposit.
- You may ask the governmental body to determine whether providing the information primarily benefits the general public, resulting in a waiver or reduction of charges.
- Make a timely payment for all mutually agreed charges. A governmental body can demand payment of overdue balances exceeding $100, or obtain a security deposit, before processing additional requests from you.
Certain information may be withheld due to an exception in the Act. By the 10th business day after a governmental body receives your written request, it must:
- Request an Attorney General opinion and state which exceptions apply;
- Notify the requestor of the referral to the Attorney General; and
- Notify third parties if the request involves their proprietary information.
Failure to request an Attorney General opinion and notify the requestor within 10 business days will result in a presumption that the information is open unless there is a compelling reason to withhold it.
Requestors may send a letter to the Attorney General arguing for release, and may review arguments made by the governmental body.
The Attorney General must issue an opinion by the 65th working day from the day you made the request.
Governmental bodies must release information determined by the Attorney General to be open or file suit within 30 calendar days, and they may not ask the Attorney General to "reconsider" an opinion.
Requests for Information
Please note: The Texas Commission on Fire Protection does not have copies of emergency incident reports that are created by local fire departments. Please contact the local fire department that responded to the incident in question if you are seeking information contained in an incident report.
To request information from this governmental body, please submit a written request to our agency's Public Records Custodian:
- Mail to: PO Box 2286, Austin, TX 78768-2286
- E-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Deliver in-person: 1701 N Congress Avenue, Suite 1-105, Austin, TX 78701. (Do not send postal mail to this address. US postal mail must be sent to the PO box listed above.)
Complaints regarding failure to release public information should be directed to your local County or District Attorney at (512) 473-9415 or (512) 473-9400 (for Travis County). You may also contact the Office of the Attorney General, Open Records Hotline, at (512) 478-6736 or toll-free at 1-877-673-6839.
Complaints regarding overcharges, should be directed to the Office of the Attorney General at (512) 475-2497.
If you need special accommodation pursuant to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), please contact the commission's ADA coordinator at (512) 936-3838.