12 April 2008 at 7:17:53 AM
Short recap. I recently did an Open Records Act, asking for the 2006, 2007 and up to the date of the request (in March 2008) appointment calendar of Sid Miller. Have had a bit of back and forth with Mr. Miller, as well as the Attorney General's office, to clarify, first, whether there are redactible exceptions to what I have asked he provide and second, questions about the format of the appointment book. Mr. Miller wanted to charge me up to $1.00 per page for paper copy, and said there might be around 2000 pages. Well, that seemed a bit much (no, let me say it, that is OUTRAGEOUS!) so I called up the Attorney General's office to find out if that's a reasonable expense. The cost I was told there was 10 cents per copy but ONLY IF PAPER. IF Mr. Miller's appointment book is electronic, then it must be supplied to me electronically, which would take out the cost of paper. Mr. Miller said that he was required by law to supply the information in hard copy, but that was before I told him that I had filed a cost complaint about the amount he wanted to charge and informed him that there is a distinction between electronic and hard copy format, and there is no requirement that the info be supplied on paper. To that end, I have now directly asked Mr. Miller twice whether his appointment book is paper or electronic, and, although we continue to have email correspondence about this, he did not answer my question directly.. yet.
Another reason it makes a difference whether the calendar is electronic or hard copy speaks to the issue of whether an amount of time, perhaps significant, needs to be spent in redacting the document. Mr Miller has said that his campaign appointments must be redacted. I have sent a request to the AG's office asking for an opinion on whether one can redact campaign appointments.
While considering this, I came across this Open Records Request that involved the Texas Railroad Commission, which appears to be still in force.
Open Records Decisions
Requests from Honorable Carole Keeton Rylander, Chair, Railroad Commission of Texas, P.O. Box 12967, Austin, Texas 78711-2967, concerning whether by public officers or employees constitute public information subject to the Texas Open Records Act and related questions.
Summary of Decisions.
An appointment calendar purchased by a public official or employee with private funds is information subject to the Open Records Act when another public employee maintains the calendar as part of his or her job. Under these circumstances, the calendar cannot be considered a handwritten note in the sole possession of a public official or employee and made by that public official or employee for his or her own personal use. Furthermore, information, including not fall outside the definition of public information in the Open Records Act merely because an individual member of a governmental body possesses the information rather than the governmental body as a whole. The appointment calendar maintained by an employee for a public official is subject to the Open Records Act in its entirety, including the entries regarding personal appointments and activities. Common-law privacy may except from disclosure some medical infomation that may be found in the requested appointment calendar. To be excepted from disclosure by common-law privacy, medical information must contain highly intimate or embarrassing facts about a person's private affairs such that its release would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person and be of no legitimate public interest. The determination of whether particular information is excepted from disclosure by common-law privacy must be made on a case-by-case basis. Under the facts stated in this decision, the appointment calendar purchased by a Railroad Commission of Texas employee with personal funds, that has been solely maintained and used by the employee, and that primarily contains personal appointments, is not public information subject to the Open Records Act even though some commission-related entries may be included in it.
As I read this, there is no distinction in an appointment book between ANY appointments, the exception beting medical information that might prove embarassing. Otherwise, note that even personal appointment and activities entries are subject to the Open Records Request... and that would certainly include campaign appointments. In fact, putting it another way, I would expect that Mr. Miller would need to point out the law that says otherwise, other than his sayso.
Why does this even make a difference? Because Mr. Miller continues to say (and I'm paraphrasing here) that getting a copy of his appointment book, even if electronically, would be an expensive proposition because of all the redacting he'd need to do? What redacting would that be? If he has that much medical information in his appointment calendar, then one would assume we'd need to take a very close look at his state of health. He said.
However the cost to pull the records and redact them will need to be recovered also. My cost are only estimates and I based them on cost that others have incurred for similar request. You will receive an itemized statement of all cost incurred. I will follow the recommendation of the AG's office and will handle you request as required by the open records act. If we can send you the request electronically ,it might save you the coping charge, but you still will have to pay all of the other associated cost.
I ask what redaction is actually necessary? Again, unless he has some severe health problems that probably we should know about anyway, seems to me that redaction of any other type would violate the Open Records Act. After all, he is a public employee, elected by us, and, obviously, what he does and who he meets with is for us to know. Also, I don't see a distinction between his appointments when the Texas Legislature is in session and when it's not, particularly because not only may there still be special sessions or committees that meet outside of the gavelled session, but other appointments may be relevant to actions he takes in office. There's one part that I'd like the AG to clarify and that is the exclusions for privacy made on a case by case basis. How is that done? I know that at least one avenue is by sending Enforcement questions like these, but it also seems to me that the ball would be in Mr Miller's court if he wanted to press for excluding information that is NOT medical. And I certainly am not going to pay a large charge for him to go back and do a lot of redacting for what the Open Records act says he must supply WITHOUT redaction.
open records act
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