Two lawsuits for public records against Texas municipalities set notable precedents regarding a plaintiff’s ability to recover attorney fees.
By Matt Stringer of The Texan
The Texas Public Information Act (TPIA) governs how records held by the state government must be provided to the public, including how fast they must be released, which records are excepted from disclosure, and how to force the government to produce them.
Two separate but similar lawsuits against city governments over the release of public records came to a conclusion recently. Both cases delivered a form of defeat for the plaintiffs while establishing notable case law on how the TPIA is enforced.
A synopsis of the process is that once a written request for public records is submitted, the government has 10 business days to produce it, or else request the Texas Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to review the record if they believe it contains non-public records and redact or withhold the excepted information from the release.
The government must release whatever records the OAG rules are public information, and if they don’t, either the requester or the OAG may file a lawsuit seeking a court order to release the record.
The two recent cases have set similar but distinct precedents on how these lawsuits for public records operate.
Putnam v. City of Georgetown
Resident Terrill Putnam heard claims from the City of Georgetown’s mayor that a renewable energy program was a significant financial benefit, and after speaking with a councilman he was encouraged to request records that would show whether the mayor’s statements were true.
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