2.1.1 Public Records

A. Purpose

The purpose of the policy is to comply with the Texas Public Information Act (“the Act”), Government Code, Chapter 552 and The University of Texas System, and to promote uniformity throughout The University of Texas at Tyler for providing public records.

B. Persons Affected

All employees of The University of Texas at Tyler

C. Definitions

Public Information:  Information that is collected, assembled, or maintained under a law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by a governmental body or for a governmental body and the governmental body owns the information or has a right of access to it.

Full cost:  The sum of all direct costs plus a proportional share of overhead or indirect costs.

Standard-size copy:  A printed impression on one side of a piece of paper that measures up to 8 1/2 by 14 inches. Each side of a piece of paper on which an impression is made is counted as a single copy. A piece of paper that is printed on both sides is counted as two copies.

Nonstandard-size copy:  A copy of public information that is made available to a requestor in any format other than a standard-size paper copy. Microfiche, microfilm, diskettes, magnetic tapes, CD-ROM, and nonstandard-size paper copies are examples of nonstandard-size copies.

Readily available information:  Information that already exists in printed form, or information that is stored electronically and is ready to be printed or copied without requiring any programming, or information that already exists on microfiche or microfilm. Information that requires a substantial amount of time to locate or prepare for release is not readily available information.

Chief Administrative Officer:  The Chancellor of The University of Texas System and the president of each academic and health institution.

D. Policy

The University of Texas at Tyler shall provide information requested by the public in conformance with the Public Information Act.

E. Responsibilities

Chief Legal Officer

Public Information Officer of the University by delegation of President. 

Public Information Coordinator
Under the supervision of the Public Information Officer, the designated agent for coordinating responses to requests for public information appropriately submitted to the University. 

Person Requesting Information

Makes written request for and receives information in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act;

Makes written request to correct information in accordance with Texas Government Code Section 559.004 and this policy.

Official or Employee

Immediately forwards any written request for information to his/her Public Information Officer.

Institution

Makes approved corrections to documents in accordance with Texas Government Code Section 559.004 and this policy.  

F. Procedures/Guidelines

Officers for Public Information and Designated Agents

The University of Texas System designates the President of the University of Texas at Tyler as the officer for public information for the University and delegates the President’s authority under the Act to the University’s Chief Legal Officer.  The Chancellor and the president of each institution delegate their authority under the Act to the appropriate Public Information Officer as defined below.  

As its Public Information Officer, UT Tyler’s Chief Legal Officer is responsible for ensuring the University complies with applicable public information laws and policies.  The operation of the University’s public information process is delegated to the University Public Information Coordinator. The Public Information Coordinator is the designated agent for coordinating responses to requests for public information appropriately submitted to the University of Texas at Tyler.

General Duties of Public Information Officer

The Public Information Officer shall make public information available for public inspection and copying and carefully protect public information.

Neither the Officer nor the Coordinator may not inquire into the purpose for which the information will be used or make other inquiry of a requestor except to establish proper identification or as follows:

  1. If information requested is unclear, the requestor may be asked to clarify the request;
  2. If a large amount of information has been requested, the requestor may be asked how the scope of the request might be narrowed.

All inquiries to the requestor for clarification or narrowing of a request shall be made in writing or email or via facsimile transmission. If the officer does not receive a written response from the requestor by the 60th day after the date the written request for clarification or narrowing is sent, the request for public information is considered to have been withdrawn by the requestor. 

The Public Information Officer shall treat all requests for information uniformly without regard to the position or occupation of the requestor, the person on whose behalf the request is made, or the status of the individual as a member of the media.  The Act provides that UT System is not required to accept or comply with a request for information from an individual who is imprisoned or confined in a correctional facility.

The Public Information Officer shall give to the requestor all reasonable comfort and facility for the full exercise of the right granted by the Act.

Signage

The Public Information Coordinator shall prominently display a sign in the form prescribed by the Attorney General that contains basic information about the rights of a requestor, the responsibilities of a governmental body, and the procedures for inspecting or obtaining a copy of public information.   The officer shall display the sign at one or more places in administrative offices of the institution where it is plainly visible to:  

  1. members of the public who request public information in person; and 
  2. employees whose duties include receiving or responding to public information requests. 

Receiving and Referring Requests

All requests for public information should be received in writing. For purposes of this Act, a written request includes a request made in writing that is sent to the chief administrative officer, the Public Information Officer, Public Information Coordinator, or other person designated by the Public Information Officer, by electronic mail or facsimile transmission. 

Any official or other employee receiving a written request for information must forward it immediately to the Public Information Coordinator.

Email and facsimile requests are not valid unless sent directly by the requestor to the Chief Administrative Officer, Public Information Officer, or his or her designee.

Individuals contacting System Administration with written or verbal inquiries regarding public information held by an institution should be advised to submit their requests in writing directly to the Public Information Coordinator of the appropriate institution. 

Routine Requests

When it is clear from the request that requested information is not excepted from required disclosure, the Public Information Officer should respond or coordinate responses to the request, notifying the chief administrative officer as appropriate. The Public Information Officer should promptly produce public information for inspection, duplication, or both on application by:

  1. providing the public information for inspection or duplication in the offices of the institution; or
  2. sending copies of the public information by first class United States mail if the person requesting the information requests that copies be provided by mail and pays the postage and any other charges that the requestor has accrued; or
  3. referring a requestor to an exact Internet location or uniform resource locator (URL) address on a website maintained by the governmental body and accessible to the public if the requested information is identifiable and readily available on that website. (The e-mail must contain a statement clearly indicating that the requestor may nonetheless access the requested information by inspection or duplication or by receipt through United States mail.)

Charges for providing a copy of public information are considered to accrue at the time the requestor is advised that the copy is available on payment of the applicable charges.

If the requested information is unavailable at the time of the request to examine because it is in active use or in storage, or cannot be produced for inspection or duplication within 10 business days after the date the information is requested the Public Information Officer shall certify this fact in writing to the requestor and set a date and hour within a reasonable time when the information will be available for inspection or duplication.

If public information exists in an electronic or magnetic medium, the requestor may request a copy either on paper or in an electronic medium, such as on diskette or on magnetic tape. The Public Information Officer shall provide a copy in the requested medium if:

  1. the institution has the technological ability to produce a copy of the requested information in the requested medium; 
  2. the institution is not required to purchase any software or hardware to accommodate the request; and 
  3. provision of a copy of the information in the requested medium will not violate the terms of any copyright agreement between the institution and a third party. 

If the institution is unable to comply with the request to produce a copy of information in a requested medium, for any of the reasons described above, the institution must provide a paper copy of the requested information or a copy in another medium that is acceptable to the requestor. The institution is not required to copy information onto a diskette or other material provided by the requestor but may use its own supplies.

The Public Information Coordinator must provide a written statement to a requestor in accordance with section 552.231(b) of the Public Information Act if the institution determines:

  1. that responding to a request for public information will require programming or manipulation of data; and 
  2. that:
    1. compliance with the request is not feasible or will result in substantial interference with its ongoing operations; or
    2. the information could be made available in the requested form only at a cost that covers the programming and manipulation of data.

After providing the written statement to the requestor as required above, the institution does not have any further obligation to provide the information in the requested form or in the form in which it is available unless within 30 days the requestor informs the institution in writing that the requestor: 

  1. wants the governmental body to provide the information in the requested form according to the cost and time parameters set out in the statement or according to other terms to which the requestor and the governmental body agree; or 
  2. wants the information in the form in which it is available.

If a requestor does not make a timely written statement as specified above, the requestor is considered to have withdrawn the request for information.

The Public Information Officer must maintain a file containing all written statements issued pursuant to instructions above in a readily accessible location.

Non-routine Requests

When it is not clear whether requested information is excepted from required disclosure by the Public Information Act the Public Information Coordinator shall consult with the Office of General Counsel within the time frames outlined below to determine whether the records in question should be withheld or released.

Subchapter C of the Public Information Act excepts a number of categories of information from required disclosure. On determination by the Office of General Counsel that requested information falls within one of these excepted categories, The Office of General Counsel shall forward a request for a decision to the Attorney General to confirm that such information shall be withheld from public disclosure.  On determination by the Office of General Counsel that that requested information does not fall within one of the excepted categories, the request shall be processed following procedures specified above for a routine request.

Requests for Personal Information

Special right of access to confidential information

Information related to the person and that is held by the institution and protected from public disclosure by laws intended to protect that person's privacy interests will be disclosed to the person or the person's authorized representative in accordance with Sections 552.023, 552.229, and 552.307 of the Act. A person may also request to be informed about information that the institution collects about the individual, as provided by Section 559.003(a)(1) of the Texas Government Code. 

Right to request correction of incorrect information 

A person is entitled to have the institution correct information about the individual that is incorrect in accordance with Section 559.004 of the Texas Government Code. 

The institution will make approved corrections in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations, including those pertaining to records retention. The institution may make approved corrections by adding a document that amends but does not replace the document containing the incorrect information. 

Requests Requiring More Than 36 Hours of Personnel Time (36 Hour Rule)

Section 552.275 authorizes a governmental body to establish a reasonable limit on personnel time regarding information requests. Each requestor is limited to 36 hours of time per 12 month fiscal year that personnel of the institution are required to spend producing public information for inspection and duplication, or providing copies of public information to the requestor, without recovering its costs attributable to that personnel time.  

Each time the institution complies with a request for public information, the institution shall provide the requestor with a written statement of the amount of personnel time spent complying with that request and the cumulative amount of time spent complying with requests for public information from that requestor during the applicable 12-month period.  The requestor may not be charged for the amount of time spent preparing the written statement.

The costs charged for personnel time relating to the cost of locating, compiling, and producing the public information shall be calculated at the rates set by the Texas Attorney General’s Office (see sections 552.261 through 552.275 of the Texas Public Information Act)

If an institution provides a requestor with a written statement estimating the cost of personnel time to complete the requestor’s request, the institution is not required to produce public information for inspection or duplication or to provide copies of public information in response to the requestor's request unless on or before the 10th day after the date the written statement was sent, the requestor submits a statement in writing to the governmental body in which the requestor commits to pay the lesser of: 

  1. the actual costs incurred in complying with the requestor's request, including the cost of materials and personnel time and overhead;  or
  2. the amount stated in the written statement.

If the requestor fails or refuses to submit a written commitment to pay statement, the requestor is considered to have withdrawn the request.

This rule does not prohibit institutions from providing a copy of public information without charge or at a reduced rate when it is in the public interest or from waiving a charge for providing a copy of public information when the cost of processing the collection will exceed the amount of the charge.  In addition, the 36 hour rule does not apply if the requestor is: 

  1. a representative of a radio or television station that holds a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission;  or
  2. a representative of a newspaper that is qualified under Section 2051.044 to publish legal notices or is a free newspaper of general circulation and that is published at least once a week and available and of interest to the general public in connection with the dissemination of news; or
  3. an elected official of the United States, Texas, or a political subdivision of Texas; or
  4. a representative of a publicly funded legal services organization that is exempt from federal income taxation under Section 501(a), Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, by being listed as an exempt entity under Section 501(c)(3) of that code.

Itemized Estimate of Charges

If a request for a copy of public information will result in the imposition of a charge that exceeds $40, the institution shall provide the requestor with a written itemized statement that details all estimated charges that will be imposed. The institution must inform the requestor of the responsibilities imposed on the requestor and of the rights granted and give the requestor the information needed to respond. 

If the institution later determines, but before it makes the copy or the paper record available, that the estimated charges will exceed the charges detailed in the written itemized statement by 20 percent or more, the institution shall send to the requestor a written updated itemized statement that details all estimated charges that will be imposed, including any allowable charges for labor or personnel costs in accordance with sections 552.261 through 552.275 of the Texas Public Information Act.. If the requestor does not respond in writing to the updated estimate in the time and manner described above, the request is considered to have been withdrawn by the requestor.

An itemized statement or updated itemized statement is considered to have been sent by the institution to the requestor on the date that: 

  1. the statement is delivered to the requestor in person;
  2. the institution deposits the properly addressed statement in the United States mail;
  3. the institution transmits the properly addressed statement by electronic mail or facsimile transmission, if the requestor agrees to receive the statement by electronic mail or facsimile transmission, as applicable.

A requestor is considered to have responded to the itemized statement or the updated itemized statement on the date that: 

  1. the response is delivered to the institution in person; the requestor deposits the properly addressed response in the United States mail; or
  2. the requestor transmits the properly addressed response to the institution by electronic mail or facsimile transmission.

These timelines do not affect the deadlines required for requesting an Attorney General's decision.

Timeliness of Action

Institutions seeking to withhold requested information based upon a Subchapter C exception must notify the Office of General Counsel. The Public Information Act provides that a decision regarding applicability of the specified exception must be requested from the Attorney General within ten business days from the date that the request is received. Further, the requestor must be provided the following information within the same time frame: 

  1. a written statement that the institution wishes to withhold the requested information and has asked for a decision from the Attorney General about whether the information is within an exception to public disclosure; and 
  2. a copy of the institution’s written communication to the Attorney General asking for the decision or, if the written communication discloses the requested information, a redacted copy of that written communication.

If a decision of the Attorney General is not requested within ten business days and the requestor is not provided with the information described in the paragraph above, the information is subject to required public disclosure and must be released unless there is a compelling reason to withhold the information. All related supplementary information required by the Attorney General must be provided not later than 15 business days after the date that the request is received.

These deadlines make it imperative that the Office of General Counsel be given as much time as possible to deal with requests to which the legal response is not immediately apparent. In all cases where an Attorney General's decision is deemed necessary by the Office of General Counsel, the requested information or representative material must be compiled and provided to the Office of General Counsel for forwarding to the Attorney General along with the request for decision. To facilitate the timely review by the Office of General Counsel, the Public Information Officer should begin compiling the requested information at the same time the Office of General Counsel is first contacted concerning the request.

All possible exceptions must be communicated to the Office of General Counsel. If an exception is not raised before the Attorney General it is waived. The only exceptions to waiver are exceptions based on a requirement of federal law or exceptions involving third party property or privacy interests.

Proprietary Information of a Third Party

If a request is made for information pertaining to a person’s proprietary information that may be subject to exception under the Act and a request for Attorney General decision is made by the institution, the Public Information Officer (or designee) shall make a good faith attempt to notify that person of the request for the Attorney General decision. Notice must: 

  1. be in writing and sent within a reasonable time not later than the 10th business day after the date the institution receives the request for the information; and
  2. include:
    1. a copy of the written request for the information received by the institution; and
    2. a statement, in the form prescribed by the Attorney General, that the person is entitled to submit in writing to the Attorney General within a reasonable time not later than the 10th business day after the date the person receives the notice:
      1. each reason the person has as to why the information should be withheld; and
      2. a letter, memorandum, or brief in support of that reason.

News Media Requests

The Vice Chancellor for External Relations will inform the institution chief administrative officer about media requests affecting an institution.

Public Information Officers are strongly encouraged to coordinate responses to news media requests with the other Public Information Officers who have received the same or similar requests and, as appropriate, the Vice Chancellor for External Relations.

Requests from Legislators and Other Governmental Offices

The Vice Chancellor and General Counsel shall notify the Vice Chancellor for Governmental Relations when UT System receives requests for public information from members of the Legislature or other governmental offices.

At the direction of the President of an institution, the Public Information Officer of an institution shall notify the Vice Chancellor for Governmental Relations when the institution receives requests for public information from members of the Legislature or other governmental offices. 

Resolution of Questions

Questions regarding the procedure for answering requests for public information should be directed to the Office of General Counsel.

Recovery Costs and Guidelines

In accordance with Subchapter F of the Act, and Title 1 of the Texas Administrative Code, it is the policy of The University of Texas System to recover the full costs for retrieving and copying public records. Officers filling requests for public information should account for all costs in fulfilling these requests using the following guidelines.

The Public Information Officer (or designee) shall make a preliminary estimate of the cost of retrieving and copying public records under these guidelines and notify the requestor, giving the requestor the option to agree to the cost and submit necessary prepayment, alter, or withdraw the request. If charges are in excess of $40, the Public Information Officer should follow the procedures outlined in Itemized Estimate of Charges.  If personnel time will exceed 36 hours, the Public Information Officer (or designee) should follow the procedures outlined in Requests Requiring More Than 36 Hours of Personnel Time. 

  1. Definitions: See Definitions section of policy
  2. The UT System adopts the rules for establishing charges to be made for public records set out in the Texas Administrative Code, Title 1, and the Texas Public Information Act.  
  3. The entire amount of fees collected pursuant to policies outlined herein should be deposited back to the appropriate fund which incurred costs involved.
  4. UT System Administration and institutions shall maintain a register which records receipt and processing of requests for public information.  Refer to Attachment 4, Register of Requests for Public Information Received, for a sample register.

G. Review

This policy shall be reviewed every five years or as legislation requires by the Chief Legal Officer. 

ORIGINALLY APPROVED: 12/01/2001  
LAST AMENDED: 04/22/2009 
REVIEWED:  AY 2014-15

AMENDED:  07/2019