Guideline 4-10: Public Information Request

The Texas Public Information Act (PIA) gives the public full and complete information regarding the official acts of public employees and governmental agencies. This act requires the college to make available for examination and copying all information collected, assembled, or maintained by the college, unless the information falls within a statutory exception.

The PIA was originally known as the Texas Open Records Act, and this "open records request" is still the most commonly used term when a citizen requests information. The PIA is also the Texas equivalent of the federal Freedom of Information Law, so sometimes a citizen may request information under the "Freedom of Information Law". Any request for information under the Public Information Act, Open Records Act or Freedom of Information Law should be processed in a similar manner. These following questions and answers are intended to give you an overview of the PIA and facilitate the processing of a request.

The office of Associate Vice Chancellor of Marketing has been designated as the responsible party for receipt of public information requests and questions about the Public Information Act. The Director of Accounting and Financial Services has been designated as the records management officer.

A request for public information must be written and includes requests on paper, facsimile transmission and electronic mail. If the request is on paper, the college requires that it be signed in addition to dated. A request over the phone or during a conversation is not a request under the PIA.

In a nutshell, just about every piece of information that is collected, assembled, and maintained by the college is subject to the PIA. There are limited exceptions to disclosure found in the PIA and other laws. In addition, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) governs the release of student information. A general rule of thumb that can be used is, if documents are important enough to maintain, they are official documents and must be released.

Release means access to the information for inspection and duplication at an office of the college, or to send copies if the requester has asked for copies by mail and has paid the appropriate fees.

Requests for inspection or copies of personnel records are handled by Human Resources. The Registrars office generally handles requests for student records. Requests for mailing labels or lists of employees are processed through Human Resources. Requests for mailing labels or lists of students are processed through the Associate Vice Chancellor for Marketing and Enrollment Management office.

The college generally has ten (10) days to release the information, or request an opinion from the Attorney General of Texas as to whether the information is protected from disclosure under the PIA.

Most of the time there will be no charge for viewing public records. Viewing is allowed during normal business hours, in an office of the college and must not disrupt normal business. An employee of the college will be assigned to the requester to ensure the records integrity. If copies are requested, the college uses the charges adopted by the General Services Commission. At the district office, these fees are collected by the Human Resource Office and deposited with the Business Office. The Registrars Office collects fees on the campus and deposits them with the campus Business Office. The following is a summary of those charges (the complete set of charges may be found at 1 TAC Sections 111.70):

Copy Charge

  • Standard-size copy of (readily available material)* 50 pages or less  .$.10 per page
  • Diskette  $1.00
  • Computer magnetic tape  $11.00-$13.50
  • VHS Video Cassette  $2.50
  • Audio Cassette  $1.00
  • Paper  $ .50

Personnel Charge

  • Charge for processing a request of more than 50 pages (locate documents, compile, and reproduce requested information)  $15.00 per hour

Overhead Charge

Covers such costs as rent, maintenance and repair, utilities, and administrative overhead  20% of personnel cost

Microfiche and Microfilm Charge

  • Total costs of making the copy (if requestor prefers copy of fiche or film itself).
  • Paper copy $.10 per page of standard size paper plus costs of personnel time spent in making the copies.

Computer Resource Charge

  • Actual time of the computer to execute program (does not apply to printing time)  $1.00-$10.00 per minute

Programming Time

  • When a request requires a programmer to enter data in order to execute an existing program or to create a new program so information may be accessed  $26.00 per hour

Miscellaneous Supplies

  • The actual costs of supplies, such as labels, boxes, and other supplies used to produce the requested information may be added to the total charge.

Postal and Shipping Charge

  • Related postal or shipping expenses which are necessary to transmit the reproduced information to the requesting party.

Fax Charge

  • Local fax  $ .10 per page
  • Long distance (same area code)  $ .50 per page
  • Long distance (different area code)  $1.00 per page

* Readily available material is information that already exists in printed form, information that is stored electronically and is ready to be printed or copied without any required programming, and 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.

(Revised November 19, 2008).