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Handbook of Operating Procedures

Handling Requests for Public Information

Policy Number: 132

Subject:

Public information requests

Scope:

Employees

Date Reviewed:
December 2017
Responsible Office:
Office of Legal Affairs
Responsible Executive:
Vice President and Chief Legal Officer; Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Operating and Financial Officer

I. POLICY AND GENERAL STATEMENT

As an agency of the State of Texas, the Texas Public Information Act (“TPIA”) requires that The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (“university”) must make available certain information upon written request.

The university’s Public Information Officer is the Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Operating and Financial Officer. The Public Information Officer or designee has exclusive authority for coordinating responses to requests for public information under the TPIA and in accordance with UT System Policy 139 Texas Public Information Act.

Note: Several university policies provide guidance on the handling of certain types of requests for information.  HOOP 147, Handling Legal Processes contains information regarding handling specific legal requests such as subpoenas; HOOP 181, Records Management Program discusses responsibilities for maintaining records; and HOOP 5, Handling Communications with the Media pertains to requests for news stories and other public relations material. Requests for medical records or medical information must be handled in accordance with the university's privacy policies and HOOP 206 Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information.

II. DEFINITIONS

Public Information: Information collected, assembled or maintained by the university in the course of its official business

III. PROCEDURE

A. Obtaining Public Information

Individuals or entities that wish to request access to public information held by the university should send a written request to the Public Information Officer or as otherwise described on the university’s website.  Email and facsimile requests are only valid under the TPIA if sent to the designated email address or facsimile number listed on the university’s website.

B. Requests for Public Information Received by Employees

Any employee who receives a request for records or information shall immediately forward it to the Office of Legal Affairs ("Legal Affairs") via fax (713-500-3275) or electronic mail (tpia@uth.tmc.edu). Once the information has been forwarded, the original recipient of the request must send the original via interoffice mail and follow-up with a telephone call to Legal Affairs. If an oral request is received, the requesting party should be directed to address the request in writing to the Public Information Officer as directed on the university’s website.

C. Responding to Public Information Requests

The Public Information Officer or designee has the exclusive authority to release public information requested under the TPIA.

  1. Responsibilities of Departments in Possession of Public Information

Upon receipt of a request, the Public Information Officer or designee will identify and contact the offices, departments and/or individuals who are most likely to maintain information responsive to the request.  Those in possession of responsive information or documents must provide such information or documents as directed by the Public Information Officer or designee. Each office, department or individual contacted must also complete a written certification on the form provided by the Public Information Officer or designee.  Such certifications must be returned to the Public Information Officer or designee.

  1. Responsibilities of Legal Affairs

Legal Affairs is responsible for providing legal analysis and recommendations to the Public Information Officer or designee regarding the decision to withhold or disclose university information, unless it is clear that there are no potential exceptions under the TPIA. In that case, Legal Affairs will provide the information as requested. The Public Information Officer will notify the President as appropriate. 

D. Training and Evaluation of Resources

The Public Information Officer or designee(s) must complete training on the TPIA provided by both The University of Texas System (“UT System”) and the Texas Attorney General within 90 days of appointment and at least once every two years thereafter.  The Public Information Officer may also ask other employees to complete the UT System training on the TPIA.  Such training must be completed within 90 days of the request. 

Every two years, the Public Information Officer will evaluate the adequacy of the staffing level and other resources allocated to comply with the TPIA and will inform the President in writing of any changes needed.  The Public Information Officer will certify the completion of this evaluation in writing and will maintain a readily accessible copy. 

E. Collecting Fees for Providing Public Information

Under strict requirements established by the Attorney General, the university may collect fees associated with collecting, copying, preparing and sending public information to requestors if certain conditions apply.  See Tex. Gov’t Code 552.261 through 552.275 and Title I Part 3 Chapter 70 of the Texas Administrative Code.  For large or multiple requests from a single requestor, Section 552.275 of the Texas Government Code allows the university to set reasonable yearly and monthly limits on the amount of personnel time that may be spent producing public information without recovering its costs attributable to that personnel time.  For purposes of Section 552.275, the university has established a limit of 36 hours of personnel time per requestor per fiscal year and 15 hours of personnel time per requestor for a one-month period.

IV. CONTACTS

    • Office of Legal Affairs
    • 713-500-3268
    • https://www.uth.edu/legal/contact-us.htm