Austin Community College District (“ACC”, or “the College”) will comply with the Texas Public Information Act (PIA), Government Code Chapter 552, as amended. Under this act, information maintained in any form or media by a governmental body is considered a public record. “Media” may include email, texts, paper, film, magnetic data stored on a computer, tape, Mylar, microfiche, microfilm, sound recordings, maps, drawings, video, etc.
The PIA is intended to guarantee public access to governmental information in the interest of providing transparency in government. As defined by the PIA, “public information” includes communications, completed reports, investigations, audits, information related to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds, the name of each official and final record of voting, administrative staff manuals, or instructions to staff. Although the PIA makes most government information available to the public, some exceptions exist as cited in the act.
Public Requests for Documents
The Chancellor of ACC is designated as the custodian of all records, documents, writings, letters, memoranda, or other written, typed, copied, or developed materials possessed, assembled, or maintained by the College.
- The Chancellor has designated the Vice Chancellor of College Relations & Marketing (VC of CRM) as the appropriate individual to respond to public requests for information. Requests received by other ACC staff or faculty members should be forwarded immediately to the Office of College Relations & Marketing (CRM) indicating the date received.
- CRM will log all requests for public information and forward them to the appropriate administrator for response, unless they can answer the request directly.
- Requests should be made in writing, except in cases in which timelines require a more immediate response, i.e., news media requests. (Facsimile or email requests will be acceptable, assuming they include a date, name of person requesting the information, and subject of the request.) A PIA Information Request Form will be made available on the ACC website for this purpose, along with the list of applicable processing fees as allowable under the rules of the Texas State Attorney General. The information requested will be produced for inspection, duplication, or both within 10 calendar days from the date the College received the written request for information. If the information is unavailable or cannot be produced in 10 calendar days, the College must so certify to the person making the request in writing, with a date and time when the information will be available.
- The VC of CRM shall thereupon make a determination as to whether or not the information requested is public in nature, consulting with other administrators or the College’s legal counsel as appropriate. Texas’ PIA encourages public entities to favor the release of information except under extraordinary circumstances; these exclusions are outlined in the PIA. If the VC of CRM finds the information to be public in nature, they shall have it made available to the person requesting the information through one of the following:
- If appropriate, and satisfactory to the person making the request, the information may be made available for review on ACC premises during normal business hours. The person has 10 calendar days in which to review the information; an additional 10-day extension may be granted upon written request.
- If hard copy is required, the College will reproduce the information for the requesting party; for photocopies fewer than 50 pages, charges will be limited to the current price per copy charged by the College. For quantities of more than 50 pages, the College also may include an estimate for the cost of labor and any other expenses accrued in locating, retrieving and/or reproducing the information. The College may, at its discretion, waive costs associated with a request for information.
- If the VC of CRM finds the information not to be public in nature, the requesting party will be informed, and such information will not be released.
- In cases where the VC of CRM is uncertain of the information’s public nature, the VC of CRM, the VC’s designate, and/or other appropriate administrators will work with the College’s legal counsel to ask for a ruling on the information’s confidentiality from the Texas State Attorney General. This must be done within 10 calendar days of receipt of the request for information. Within 15 calendar days of receipt of the request for information, the College must submit a full explanation of why it considers the requested information to be confidential and/or protected by the exclusions found in the PIA. The College must also notify the party requesting the information within 10 days that an opinion has been requested from the Attorney General’s Office. If the College is requesting a decision regarding confidentiality of third-party information (e.g., a vendor’s proprietary information), the College should notify that party within 10 days so that it has the opportunity to submit a separate brief to the Attorney General’s Office outlining why it feels the information should be protected. The Attorney General’s Office has 45 days from the date it receives the College’s request for a ruling to render its decision.