Suburbs and cities surrounding the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex rank highest in the state for petitions to the Texas Attorney General's office to withhold municipal information, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity.
Under the Texas Public Information Act, citizens and the media can make requests to state agencies for government records. In normal circumstances, the agency has to respond to the request within 10 days and provide the requested information or documents in a timely manner.
However, if the agency believes that the request touches on information that the government has an interest in keeping confidential, they can petition the Attorney General’s office for the right to deny the request. The Attorney General’s office then has 45 days to rule on whether the information can be fully or partially withheld, or must be released.
The study looked at the number of petitions to the Attorney General’s office to withhold information requested under the Public Information Act per 100,000 in population in Texas’s 20 largest cities. Seven of the 10 cities that submitted the most requests to Abbott’s office to withhold information were in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The City of McKinney, north of Plano, has the highest rate of attempts to deny public information requests. Austin ranks 14th, behind Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.
The State Integrity Investigation project has examined government transparency in all 50 states and gave Texas a grade of F for public access to information, based on findings that Texas’s open records law affords Texans expansive rights to information, but isn’t applied well.