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II.A.1. Public Information Program

II.A.1.01.  Public Information Policy

Lone Star College (the “College”) supports the public's right to access information concerning the College under the Texas Public Information Act. The Chancellor, as the chief administrative officer of the College,  may designate an Officer for Public Records as the point of official information dissemination for the College.

II.A.1.02. Definitions

(a)   Public Information means information that is written, produced, collected, assembled, or maintained under a law or ordinance, or in connection with the transaction of official business by the College or for the College and to which the College owns the information; has a right of access to the information; or spends or contributes public money for the purpose of writing, producing, collecting, assembling, or maintaining the information; or by an individual officer or employee of the College in the officer’s or employee’s official capacity and the information pertains to official business of the College. Public Information also includes any electronic communication created, transmitted, received, or maintained on any device if the communication is in connection with the transaction of official business.

(b)  Officer for Public Records means the chief administrative officer of a governmental body or the officer’s designee. Information regarding the designated Officer for Public Records for the College can be found at www.lonestar.edu/public-records.htm.

(c)   In Connection with the Transaction of Official Business means information created by, transmitted to, received by, or maintained by an officer or employee of the College in the officer’s or employee’s official capacity, or a person or entity performing official business or a College function on behalf of the College, and pertains to official business of the College.

(d)  Commissioned Peace Officer means an officer commissioned to carry a weapon.

II.A.1.03. The Office of Public Records

Information requests in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act must be made through the Office of Public Records to the Officer for Public Records for the College. All executives and department leaders of the College are agents of the Officer for Public Records to ensure compliance with the Texas Public Information Act and College policy regarding public information. The Officer for Public Records will comply with all duties and obligations as required under the Texas Public Information Act.   

II.A.1.04. Categories of Public Information

The following categories of information are public information and not excepted from required disclosure unless made confidential under the Texas Public Information Act or other law:

1)      a completed report, audit, evaluation, or investigation made of, for, or by the College;

2)      the name, sex, ethnicity, salary, title, and dates of employment of each employee and officer of the College;

3)      information in an account, voucher, or contract relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds by the College;

4)      the name of each official and the final record of voting on all proceedings of the College;

5)      all working papers, research material, and information used to estimate the need or expenditure of public funds or taxes by the College, on completion of the estimate;

6)      the name, place of business, and the name of the municipality to which local sales and use taxes are credited, if any, for the named person, of a person reporting or paying sales and use taxes under Chapter 151, Tax Code;

7)      a description of the College’s organization and where, from whom, and how the public may obtain information, submit information or requests, and obtain decisions;

8)      a statement of the general course and method by which the College’s functions are channeled and determined, including the nature and requirements of all formal and informal procedures;

9)      a rule of procedure, a description of forms available or the places at which forms may be obtained, and instructions relating to the scope and content of all papers, reports, or examinations;

10)  a substantive rule of general applicability adopted or issued by the College as authorized by law, and statement of general policy or interpretation of general applicability formulated and adopted by the College;

11)  each amendment, revision, or repeal of the information described in items 7-10;

12)  final opinions, including concurring and dissenting opinions, and orders issued in the adjudication of cases;

13)  a policy statement or interpretation that has been adopted or issued by the College;

14)  administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public;

15)  information regarded as open to the public under the College’s policies;

16)  information that is in a bill for attorney's fees and that is not privileged under the attorney-client privilege;

17)  information that is also contained in a public court record;

18)  a settlement agreement to which the College is a party; and

19)  certain College investment information as specified by Texas Government Code Section 552.0225.

II.A.1.05. Request for Public Information

A Request for Public Information maintained by the College must be in writing and in compliance with the Texas Public Information Act. The request must properly identify the information to be produced and the name, address, email address, or other contact information of the individual requesting the information. A form of picture identification may be required to verify identity.

II.A.1.06. Processing Request for Public Information

The College will comply with all duties and obligations governing the response to a request for information under the Texas Public Information Act. The Officer for Public Records may establish procedures ensuring expeditious and accurate processing of requests for information requiring programming or manipulation of data.

II.A.1.07. Costs Associated with Request for Public Information

A charge associated with responding to requests for public information will be made in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act.  

The College will provide a written, itemized statement detailing all estimated charges, including labor and personnel costs, to the individual requesting public information for requests exceeding $40. If an alternative, less-costly method of viewing the records is available, the statement must include a notice that the College may be contacted regarding the alternative method. The Officer for Public Records will comply with notice responsibilities to the individual requesting public information, relating to the itemized statement, in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act.

A deposit or bond for payment of anticipated costs for the preparation of public information may be required by the College if the charge for creating the copy would exceed $100 and a required, written, itemization statement detailing estimated charges is provided to the individual requesting public information. The Officer for Public Records may require a deposit or bond for payment of unpaid amounts owed the College relating to previous requests for public information before preparing a copy of public information in response to a new request if unpaid amounts exceed $100.

II.A.1.08. Access to Public Information

The Officer for Public Records will promptly produce a suitable copy of public information for inspection, duplication, or both, during regular College business hours, at the Office of Public Records upon request by any person within a reasonable time after the date on which the information is requested. However, information excepted from required disclosure or subject to federal Copyright Law may be excepted from inspection or duplication. The College may also comply with access to public information if the requested information is identifiable and readily available on an internet source maintained by the College and provided to the individual requesting information. Inspection or examination of the requested information will be performed in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act. 

The Texas Public Information Act does not require the College to prepare or create information not in existence at the time the request for public information is made. The Texas Public Information Act also does not require the College to prepare or generate information in a specifically requested medium unless the College has the technological ability to fulfill the request and is not required to purchase software or hardware to accommodate the request.

The College, at its discretion, may implement reasonable procedures by which public information may be inspected in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

II.A.1.09.  Information Excepted from Required Disclosure

Several categories of information excepted from required disclosure exist under the Texas Public Information Act or other law. The following non-exhaustive list contains categories of information excepted from required public disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act or other law. Consultation with a licensed, legal professional regarding the applicability of certain exceptions to a request for information is advised.  

1.      Information considered to be confidential by law; either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision.

2.      Information in a personnel file, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, and transcripts from institutions of higher education maintained in files of professional employees; however, the degree obtained and the curriculum on the transcripts shall be subject to disclosure.

3.      Information relating to litigation of a civil or criminal nature or settlement negotiations, to which the College is, or may be, a party or to which a Board member or employee of the College, as a consequence of the office or employment, is or may be a party, but only if the litigation is pending or reasonably anticipated at the time of the request.

4.      Information that, if released, would give advantage to competitors or bidders.

5.      Information pertaining to the location of real or personal property for a public purpose prior to public announcement of the project, or information pertaining to appraisals or purchase price of real or personal property for a public purpose prior to the formal award of contracts for the property.

6.      Drafts and working papers involved in the preparation of proposed policies;

7.      Information the College's attorney is prohibited from disclosing because of a duty to the College under the Texas Rules of Evidence or the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct or information that a court order has prohibited from disclosure.

8.      Private correspondence and communications of an elected office holder relating to matters the disclosure of which would constitute an invasion of privacy.

9.      Interagency or intra-agency memoranda or letters that would not be available by law to a party in litigation with the College.

10.  Student records, except to College personnel, the student, his or her parents, or guardian (If the student is a minor), or spouse. The College is not required to release student records, except in conformity with FERPA.

11.  Test items developed by the College.

12.  The certified agenda or tape recording of closed session, unless a court order makes it available for public inspection and copying.

13.  Records of a school library or library College that identify or serve to identify a person who requested, obtained, or used a library material or service, unless the records are disclosed:

                                                              i.      because the library determines that disclosure is reasonably necessary for the operation of the library and the records are not confidential under other state or federal law;

                                                            ii.      to a person with a special right of access under Gov. Code Sec. 522.023; or

                                                          iii.      to a law enforcement agency or prosecutor under a court order or subpoena. 

14.  An oral interview that is obtained for historical purposes by an agreement of confidentiality between the interviewee and the College. The interview becomes public information when the conditions of the agreement of confidentiality have been met.

15.  Rare books, original manuscripts, personal papers, unpublished letters, and audio and video tapes held by the College for the purpose of historical research.

16.  Applicant names for the position of Chancellor, except that the Board must give public notice of the name or names of the finalists being considered for the position at least 21 days prior to the meeting at which final action or vote is to be taken on the employment of the individual.

17.  Information in a commercial book or publication purchased or acquired by the College for research purposes, if the book or publication is commercially available to the public. The College is not required to make copies of commercially available information, but the College shall allow the inspection of information in a book or publication that is made part of, incorporated into, or referred to in a rule or policy of the College.

18.  Information submitted by a potential vendor or contractor to the Board in connection with an application for certification as a historically underutilized or disadvantaged business under a local, state, or federal certification program.

19.  The Social Security number of a living person. The College may redact the Social Security number of a living person from any information the College discloses to the public without the necessity of requesting a decision from the attorney general.

20.   Certain College investment information, a specified by Government Code 552.143, is not public information and is excepted from disclosure.

21.  A credit card, debit card, charge card, or access device number that is collected, assembled, or maintained by or for the College.

22.  An e-mail address of a member of the public that is provided for the purpose of communicating electronically with the College is confidential and not subject to disclosure unless the member of the public affirmatively consents to its release.

This confidentiality does not apply to an e-mail address:

                                                              i.      Provided to the College by a person who has a contractual relationship with the College or by the contractor's agent;

                                                            ii.      Provided to the College by a vendor who seeks to contract with the College or by the vendor's agent;

                                                          iii.      Contained in a response to a request for bids or proposals, contained in a response to similar invitations soliciting offers or information relating to a potential contract, or provided to the College in the course of negotiating the terms of a contract or potential contract; or

                                                          iv.      Provided to the College on a letterhead, coversheet, printed document, or other document made available to the public. The College may also disclose an e-mail address for any reason to another governmental body or to a federal agency.

23.  Under certain circumstances, information (except basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime) held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor, including:

                                                              i.      Information that deals with detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime; and

                                                            ii.      An internal record or notation that is maintained for internal use in matters relating to law enforcement or prosecution.

24.  A trade secret obtained from a person and privileged or confidential by statute or judicial decision.

25.  Commercial or financial information for which it is demonstrated based on specific factual evidence that disclosure would cause substantial competitive harm to the person from whom the information was obtained.

26.  A photograph that depicts a peace officer, the release of which would endanger the life or physical safety of the officer, unless:

                                                              i.      The officer is under indictment or charged with an offense by information;

                                                            ii.      The officer is a party in a fire or police civil service hearing or a case in arbitration; or

                                                          iii.      The photograph is introduced as evidence in a judicial proceeding.

27.  Motor vehicle record information that relates to:

                                                              i.      A motor vehicle operator's or driver's license or permit issued by an agency of this state;

                                                            ii.      A motor vehicle title or registration issued by an agency of this state; or

                                                          iii.      A personal identification document issued by an agency of this state or a local agency authorized to issue an identification document of the motor vehicle record information described above may be released only in accordance with Transportation Code Chapter 730.

28.  An informer's name or information that would substantially reveal the identity of an informer, unless:

                                                              i.      The informer or the informer's spouse consents to disclosure of the informer's name;

                                                            ii.      The informer planned, initiated, or participated in the possible violation.

29.  Information that relates to the economic development negotiations involving the Board and a business prospect that the Board seeks to have locate, stay, or expand in or near the College, if that information relates to:

                                                              i.      A trade secret of the business prospect; or

                                                            ii.      Commercial or financial information for which it is demonstrated based on specific factual evidence that disclosure would cause substantial competitive harm to the person from whom the information was obtained.

30.  Unless and until an agreement is made with the business prospect, information about a financial or other incentive being offered to a business prospect by the Board or by another person.

31.  After an agreement is made, information about a financial or other incentive being offered is no longer exempted from public disclosure if the information is about a financial or other incentive being offered to the business prospect:

                                                              i.      By the Board; or

                                                            ii.      By another person, if the financial or other incentive may directly or indirectly result in the expenditure of public funds by the College or a reduction in revenue received by the College from any source. 

32.  Information that relates to computer network security or to the design, operation, or defense of a computer network. The following information is confidential:

                                                              i.      A computer network vulnerability report;

                                                            ii.      Any other assessment of the extent to which data processing operations, a computer, or a computer program, network, College, or software of the College or of a contractor of the College is vulnerable to unauthorized access or harm, including an assessment of the extent to which the College's or contractor's electronically stored information is vulnerable to alteration, damage, or erasure.; and

                                                          iii.      A photocopy or other copy of an identification badge issued to an official or employee of the College. 

33.  A military veteran's Department of Defense Form DD-214 or other military discharge record that first comes into the possession of the College in or after September 1, 2003. The record is confidential for the 75 years following the date it comes into the possession of the College in accordance with government Code 552.140. A College that obtains information from the record shall limit the use and disclosure of the information to the purpose for which the information was obtained.

34.  The name or other information that would tend to disclose the identity of a person other than a governmental body, who makes a gift, grant, or donation of money or property, to the College or to any other person with the intent that the money or property be transferred to the College.

35.  Information relating to a participant in the Address Confidentiality Program for Victims of Family Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking is confidential, except as provided by Code of Criminal Procedure 56.90, and may not be disclosed.

36.  A College employee who is also a victim under Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 56, Subchapter B may elect whether to allow public access to information held by the College district that would identify or tend to identify the victim, including a photograph or other visual representation of the victim.  An election under this subsection must be made in writing on a form developed by the college district, be signed by the employee, and be filed with the college district before the third anniversary of the latest to occur of one of the following:

                                                              i.      The date the crime was committed;

                                                            ii.      The date employment begins; or

                                                          iii.      The date the governmental body develops the form and provides it to employees.

If the employee fails to make an election, the identifying information is excepted from disclosure until the third anniversary of the date the crime was committed.  In case of disability, impairment, or other incapacity of the employee, the election may be made by the guardian of the employee or former employee.

37.  All information relating to a product, device, or process, the application or use of such a product, device, or process, and all technological and scientific information (including computer programs) developed in whole or in part at a college district, regardless of whether patentable or capable of being registered under copyright or trademark laws, that have a potential for being sold, traded, or licensed for a fee.

38.  Any information relating to a product, device, or process, the application or use of such product, device, or process, and any technological and scientific information (including computer programs) that is the proprietary information of a person, partnership, corporation, or federal agency that has been disclosed to a college district solely for the purposes of a written research contract or grant that contains a provision prohibiting the college district from disclosing such proprietary information to third persons or parties.

39.  Information maintained by or for a college district that would reveal the college district’s plans or negotiations for commercialization or a proposed research agreement, contract, or grant, or that consists of unpublished research or data that may be commercialized, is not subject to the Public Information Act (PIA), unless the information has been published, is patented, or is otherwise subject to an executed license, sponsored research agreement, or research contract or grant. 

40.  The plans, specifications, blueprints, and designs, including related proprietary information, of a scientific research and development facility that is jointly financed by the federal government and a local government or state agency, including an institution of higher education, is confidential and is not  subject to disclosure if the facility is designed and built for the purposes of promoting scientific research and development and increasing the economic development and diversification of this state. 

41.  Information maintained by or for the College that would reveal the College’s plans or negotiations for commercialization or a proposed research agreement, contract, or grant, or that consists of unpublished research or data that may be commercialized, unless the information has been published, is patented, or is otherwise subject to an executed license, sponsored research agreement, or research contract or grant. 

42.  The plans, specifications, blueprints, and designs, including related proprietary information, of a scientific research and development facility that is jointly financed by the federal government and the College, if the facility is designed and built for the purposes of promoting scientific research and development and increasing the economic development and diversification of this state.

43.  Unless the individual consents to disclosure, information that directly or indirectly reveals the identity of an individual who made a report to the compliance program office of the College, sought guidance from the office, or participated in an investigation conducted under the compliance program; and information that directly or indirectly reveals the identity of an individual as a person who is alleged to have or may have planned, initiated, or participated in activities that are the subject of a report made to the compliance program office if, after completing an investigation, the office determines the report to be unsubstantiated or without merit. Information is excepted from disclosure if it is collected or produced in a compliance program investigation and releasing the information would interfere with an ongoing compliance investigation.  Although this information is excepted from disclosure under the Public Information Act, the College may disclose the information to specific individuals/entities in accordance with state law.

44.  Except as provided under Section 37.108(c-2), any document or information collected, developed, or produced during a safety and security audit conducted under the Texas Education Code.

45.  The personal identifying information obtained from an individual for the purpose of the emergency alert College of a college district, including an e-mail address or telephone number, is confidential and not subject to disclosure. 

46.  A sensitive crime scene image, as defined by Government Code 552.1085(a)(6), in the custody of the College. 

47.  Records, including any identifying information, of individual members, annuitants, retirees, beneficiaries, alternate payees, program participants, or persons eligible for benefits from TRS or another retirement College.  This provision applies to records that are in the custody of the College acting in cooperation with or on behalf of the retirement College. 

II.A.1.10. Personal Information of Employees and Officials

College employees, former employees, other than a commissioned peace officer, officials, or former officials must elect whether to allow public access to College-held information relating to the person's home address, home telephone number, or that reveals family member information. This written election must be made to the main personnel officer of the College not later than the 14th day after the date on which employment with the College begins; the official is elected or appointed; or the former employee or official ends service with the College. Failure to elect within this time period subjects the information to public access. However, employees, former employees, officials, or former officials may make a written request to the personnel officer to open or close access to the information described in this subsection at any time. The College must provide required information to an individual under the Texas Public Information Act if withholding certain information without requesting a determination by the Texas Office of the Attorney General.

II.A.1.11. Commissioned Peace Officers

Information maintained by the College relating to the home address, home telephone number, emergency contact information, date of birth, or social security number of a Commissioned peace officer or information that reveals whether the officer has family members, is confidential and may not be disclosed to the public if the officer chooses to restrict public access to the information by notifying the College on a form provided by the College with evidence of the officer’s status. This election remains valid until rescinded in writing by the officer.  The College must provide required information to an individual under the Texas Public Information Act if withholding certain information without requesting a determination by the Texas Office of the Attorney General.

II.A.1.12. Attorney General Determinations

The College may seek to withhold certain requested information that it believes is not subject to required disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act or other law.  The College will request a determination from the Texas Office of the Attorney General as to whether certain information is excepted from required disclosure, unless the information is otherwise deemed excepted from required disclosure by a Texas Attorney General previous determination, or express provision under the Texas Public Information Act. A request for a determination and notification to the individual requesting information will be conducted in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act. Information is presumed public if a determination is not requested.

(i)     Third Party Property Interests

The College may request a determination from the Texas Office of the Attorney General as to whether requested information is excepted from required disclosure in cases where requested information may affect a person's privacy, proprietary, or property rights. The College may, but is not required to, submit its reasons supporting the withholding of information. The College will make a good faith attempt to notify persons or entities regarding the College’s request for a determination in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act.

II.A.1.13. Voluntary Disclosure

The College may voluntarily disclose part or all of its records to any person, unless the disclosure is expressly prohibited by law or the information is confidential under law. 

II.A.1.14.  Repetitious or Redundant Requests

Requests for information in which the College has previously furnished or made copies available to the individual requesting public information on payment of applicable charges may be deemed repetitious or redundant and are subject to certain request processing exceptions under the Texas Public Information Act.

II.A.1.15. Substantial Employee or Personnel Time

College employees or personnel collectively spending 36 hours of time producing information for an individual requesting public information during the College’s fiscal year will charge for any additional time spent producing information for the individual in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act.

II.A.1.16.  Destruction of Records

A College record may be intentionally destroyed under the following conditions:

(i)        The record is listed on a records control schedule filed with the State Library and Archives Commission and either its retention period has expired or it has been microfilmed or electronically stored in accordance with legal standards.

(ii)       The record appears on a list of obsolete records approved by the State Library and Archives Commission.

(iii)      A destruction request is filed with an approved by the State Library and Archives Commission for a record not listed on an approved control schedule.

(iv)      A court issues an expunction order for the destruction or obliteration of the records, pursuant to state law.

(v)        The records are defined as exempt from scheduling or filing requirements or listed as exempt in a records retention schedule issued by the State Library and Archives Commission.

(vi)      When photographic duplicates of public records have been made according to Local Government Code Chapters 201-205, the Trustee may order the original public records to be destroyed or otherwise disposed. However, original public records shall not be destroyed or otherwise disposed until the time for filing legal proceedings based on any such record has elapsed or any other legal requirements for retention are met. Notice of such proposed destruction or disposition shall first be given to the state librarian.

II.A.1.17.  Exceptions to Destruction of Records

The Board of Trustees’ minute books shall not be disposed of or destroyed. A College record, the subject matter of which is known by the records custodian to be the subject of litigation, will not be destroyed until the litigation is settled. A College record that is covered by a litigation hold will  also not be destroyed. A College record that is subject to a request under the Public Information Act or other law or court order will not be destroyed until the request is resolved.

II.A.1.18.  Preservation of Records

The Board of Trustees will determine a time for which records that are not currently in use will be preserved, subject to any applicable rule or law governing the destruction or other disposition of local government records or public information.

The Board of Trustees will preserve the certified agenda or tape recording of a closed session of a Trustee meeting for at least two years from the date of the meeting. If an action involving the meeting is brought within that time period, the certified agenda or tape recording will be preserved while the action is pending.

II.A.1.19.  Filing Suit to Withhold Information

The Board of Trustees, or designee, may file suit seeking to withhold information, but the individual requesting public information may not be named as a party to that action. The Board of Trustees, or designee, must demonstrate to the court that a timely, good faith effort to inform the individual requesting public information was made in accordance with the Texas Public Information Act.

 

LSCS Policy Manual Section adopted by the Board of Trustees on December 1, 2016