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RULE §70.11Informing the Public of Basic Rights and Responsibilities under the Public Information Act

(a) Pursuant to Texas Government Code, Chapter 552, Subchapter D, §552.205, an officer for public information shall prominently display a sign in the form prescribed by the Attorney General.

(b) The sign shall contain basic information about the rights of requestors and responsibilities of governmental bodies that are subject to Chapter 552, as well as the procedures for inspecting or obtaining a copy of public information under said chapter.

(c) The sign shall have the minimum following characteristics:

  (1) Be printed on plain paper.

  (2) Be no less than 8 1/2 inches by 14 inches in total size, exclusive of framing.

  (3) The sign may be laminated to prevent alterations.

(d) The sign will contain the following wording:

  (1) 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.

  (2) Rights of Requestors. You have the right to:

    (A) Prompt access to information that is not confidential or otherwise protected;

    (B) Receive treatment equal to all other requestors, including accommodation in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements;

    (C) Receive certain kinds of information without exceptions, like the voting record of public officials, and other information;

    (D) Receive a written itemized 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;

    (E) Choose whether to inspect the requested information (most often at no charge), receive copies of the information, or both;

    (F) A waiver or reduction of charges if the governmental body determines that access to the information primarily benefits the general public;

    (G) Receive a copy of the communication from the governmental body asking the 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;

    (H) Lodge a written complaint about overcharges for public information with the Attorney General. 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 Attorney General.

  (3) Responsibilities of Governmental Bodies. All governmental bodies responding to information requests have the responsibility to:

    (A) Establish reasonable procedures for inspecting or copying public information and inform requestors of these procedures;

    (B) Treat all requestors uniformly and shall give to the requestor all reasonable comfort and facility, including accommodation in accordance with ADA requirement;

    (C) Be informed about open records laws and educate employees on the requirements of those laws;

    (D) 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, has amended the request, or has sent a complaint of overcharges to the Attorney General, in writing before finalizing the request;

    (E) Inform the requestor if the information cannot be provided promptly and set a date and time to provide it within a reasonable time;

    (F) Request a ruling from the 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;

    (G) Segregate public information from information that may be withheld and provide that public information promptly;

    (H) Make a good faith attempt to inform third parties when their proprietary information is being requested from the governmental body;

    (I) Respond in writing to all written communications from the Attorney General regarding complaints about the charges for the information and other alleged violations of the Act.

  (4) Procedures to Obtain Information

    (A) Submit a request by mail, fax, email or in person, according to a governmental body's reasonable procedures.

    (B) Include enough description and detail about the information requested to enable the governmental body to accurately identify and locate the information requested.

    (C) Cooperate with the governmental body's reasonable efforts to clarify the type or amount of information requested.

  (5) Information to be released.

    (A) You may review it promptly, and if it cannot be produced within 10 business days the public information officer will notify you in writing of the reasonable date and time when it will be available;

    (B) Keep all appointments to inspect records and to pick up copies. Failure to keep appointments may result in losing the opportunity to inspect the information at the time requested;

    (C) Cost of Records.

      (i) You must respond to any written estimate of charges within 10 business days of the date the governmental body sent it or the request is considered automatically withdrawn;

      (ii) If estimated costs exceed $100.00 (or $50.00 if a governmental body has fewer than 16 full time employees) the governmental body may require a bond, prepayment or deposit;

      (iii) 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;

      (iv) Make timely payment for all mutually agreed charges. A governmental body can demand payment of overdue balances exceeding $100.00, or obtain a security deposit, before processing additional requests from you.

  (6) Information that may be withheld due to an exception.

    (A) By the 10th business day after a governmental body receives your written request, a governmental body must:

      (i) Request an Attorney General Opinion and state which exception apply;

      (ii) Notify the requestor of the referral to the Attorney General; and

      (iii) Notify third parties if the request involves their proprietary information;

    (B) Failure to request an Attorney General opinion and to 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.

    (C) Requestors may send a letter to the Attorney General arguing for release, and may review arguments made by the governmental body. If the arguments disclose the requested information, the requestor may obtain a redacted copy.

    (D) The Attorney General must issue a decision no later than the 45th business day after the Attorney General received the request for a decision. The Attorney General may request an additional 10 business days extension.

    (E) Governmental bodies may not ask the Attorney General to ''reconsider'' an opinion.

  (7) Additional Information on Sign.

    (A) The sign must contain information of the governmental body's officer for public information, or the officer's agent, as well as the mailing address, phone and fax numbers, and email address, if any, where requestors may send a request for information to the officer or the officer's agent. The sign must also contain the physical address at which requestors may request information in person.

    (B) The sign must contain information of the local county attorney or district attorney where requestors may submit a complaint of alleged violations of the Act, as well as the contact information for the Attorney General.

    (C) The sign must also contain contact information of the person or persons with whom a requestor may make special arrangements for accommodation pursuant to the American with Disabilities Act.

(e) A governmental body may comply with Texas Government Code, §552.205 and this rule by posting the sign provided by the Attorney General.

Source Note: The provisions of this §70.11 adopted to be effective February 16, 2000, 25 TexReg 1092; amended to be effective January 16, 2003, 28 TexReg 439; amended to be effective February 11, 2004, 29 TexReg 1189; transferred effective September 1, 2005, as published in the Texas Register September 29, 2006, 31 TexReg 8251; amended to be effective February 22, 2007, 32 TexReg 614

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