What is the Public Information Act?
The Public Information Act, previously known as the Open Records Act, is located at Chapter 552 of the Texas Government Code. The Act provides a means for citizens to inspect or copy government records.
How do I make a request for public information?
The request must be in writing. You may use the Public Information Request Form to assist you in providing the information we need to respond to your request, but the form is not required. The request should be addressed to City Secretary Jeana Bellinger and/or Deputy City Secretary Karen Stack. Send/Deliver all public information requests to any of the following:
If you need assistance submitting your request, please call Karen Stack at 979-337-7564.
City of Brenham
Office of the City Secretary
P.O. Box 1059
Brenham, TX 77834-1059
Delivery (Weekdays 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.)
City of Brenham
Office of the City Secretary
200 W. Vulcan Street, Suite 206
Brenham, TX 77833
What should I write in my public information request?
You do not need to reference the Public Information Act or use any formal language, but please make the request as clear and specific as possible. This will allow the City of Brenham to identify precisely what information you are requesting. Please do not include confidential information such as a Social Security Number or Driver's License Number.
How long does the City have to respond to my request for information?
All records must be reviewed before release to ensure they do not contain confidential information; therefore, records usually cannot be released the same day they are requested. The Public Information Act requires us to release records "promptly" after receiving a written request, but no later than 10 business days. In the rare cases in which more than 10 business days may be needed to respond, we must notify you in writing of the delay and tell you when the records will be available.
Will I have to pay for copies of my requested information?
Most requested records are provided without charge. The City reserves the right to charge costs allowed by the Attorney General for broad or time-consuming requests, or when responding to a request that requires the City to provide supplies such as DVD's, USB drives, or a large quantity of paper copies. If responding to your request will require you to pay a fee, we will send you an estimate of charges before we process the request, and if the cost is expected to be more than one hundred dollars ($100), we may require you to pay the charges before we proceed.
How is public information provided to me?
If the documentation you seek is available electronically, and you would prefer it in that form, the City can usually send it via email (or on a CD if the file is too large to email). If you wish to receive paper copies, the City can send them to you via fax or standard US Mail.
What if I just want to look at the documents?
Clearly state in your request that you do not wish to receive copies but wish to view the information. When your request is received, the officer for public information will contact you to set an appointment for you to come to our office and view the documents. Any information that is confidential by law will be redacted. If we must print the records in order for you to inspect them, charges may apply.
What if I need someone to create a document for me?
We are here to help you and will always do our best to answer questions you may have. However, the Public Information Act does not require us to answer questions, perform research, provide legal advice, or create new documents upon request.
What happens if I request confidential information?
Some information contained in our records is made confidential by the Texas Public Information Act or other laws. If the records you request contain confidential information, we must redact the confidential portions. Some types of confidential information will be automatically redacted by us, but other types of confidential information cannot be withheld without a ruling from the Texas Attorney General's Office. If some of the information you request is confidential, we will tell you what information has been withheld and why, and whether a ruling has been requested.
What information will the City redact/withhold from my request?
We will automatically withhold certain confidential information, such as:
- Direct Deposit Authorization Forms
- I-9 Forms and Attachments
- W-2 and W-4 Forms
- Military Discharge Records
- Email Addresses of Members of the Public
- Social Security Numbers
- Motor Vehicle Records (Driver's License or ID Numbers and License Plate or VIN Numbers)
- Account and Access Device Numbers (Credit Card Numbers, Bank Account and Routing Numbers, etc.)
- Medical Records
- The home address, telephone number, and family member information of Police Officers, and of any other employee who requested this information be kept confidential.
- Dates of birth have been ruled by Texas Courts to be confidential, but we need your approval to withhold them. To expedite your request, the City will automatically redact birth dates from records. If you accept documents with dates of birth redacted, we will consider that as your approval. If you do not accept the redaction of dates of birth, please inform the City and a ruling will be requested from the Attorney General's Office.
Can I request a police background check?
Texas courts have ruled that compiling all criminal records pertaining to a third party is a violation of their privacy. If you request us to perform a search for all criminal records pertaining to an individual other than yourself without that person’s authorization, we must send any records we find to the Attorney General’s Office for a ruling. Please call or e-mail us for more information on ways you can narrow your request.
If you are requesting a background check for yourself, please note that we can only provide records produced/maintained by the City of Brenham Police Department. We cannot run statewide or national checks.
Can I request body camera video?
Please use the Body Camera Video Request Form to request body camera video. You must be very specific when requesting this video or your request cannot be processed. Be sure to include the exact date, time (hours and minutes), and location (address or intersection) of the recording. You will also need to identify at least one individual who is the subject of the recording. If the video was recorded in a private residence, or involves the investigation of a fine-only offense, you will need to provide authorization from each subject of the recording.
Please note that the City does not have the ability to redact confidential information from these videos; therefore, if the video contains any audible or visible confidential information we will need to send the entire video to the Attorney General’s Office for a ruling.
How do I get information about 911 calls?
Local 911 calls are handled by Washington County Emergency Communications (WCEC). 911 calls, transcripts, dispatch records, and Calls for Service (report numbers that begin with “CFS”) must be requested from WCEC. Call 979-277-7373 and ask for Emergency Communications.
What if I request a police report and the case is still open/active?
The City of Brenham was granted a Previous Determination
by the Texas Attorney General that applies to open/active police investigations. It allows us to withhold most of a police report, if the Police Department makes a good faith determination that releasing it could interfere with an ongoing investigation or prosecution of a crime. We must still release the basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime contained within these reports.
What if I am the subject of the records I am requesting?
A person or a person's authorized representative has a special right of access to information that relates to the person and that is protected from public disclosure by laws intended to protect that person's privacy interests. However, the individual's right of access to private information about that individual does not override exceptions to disclosure in the Public Information Act or confidentiality laws protecting some interest other than that individual's privacy.
How do I get court records, such as a disposition or a copy of a citation?
Court records are not subject to the Public Information Act. Courts have their own rules about how records are released. If you need to ask for records pertaining to a case heard in the City of Brenham Municipal Court, call 979-337-7599. If your case was heard in Washington County, please call 979-277-6200 and ask to speak to the Court Clerk.
What happens if an Attorney General Ruling is requested?
If the City of Brenham requests an Attorney General ruling to withhold information, the City will notify you in writing within ten (10) business days of receiving your request. All documents requested are sent to the Attorney General for review. The Attorney General has 45 business days to rule on the matter and will notify both the City and the requestor of their decision. If you want to send comments to be considered when the office makes its ruling, please call the Attorney General's Open Government Hotline at 877-673-6839, or visit:
How do I appeal the City's decision to redact/withhold information?
If you wish to appeal the redaction/withholding of information, you must send the following to the Attorney General:
- A signed, written statement indicating you wish to appeal the withholding of information;
- The name of the governmental body that withheld information from you;
- The date you made your original request for information; and
- A copy of your original request for information, or if you are unable to provide a copy, a description of your original request for information.
You may also submit written comments stating why you think the information should be released to you, but you are not required to do so.
Send your appeal by mail to the Attorney General at:
Open Records Division
P.O. Box 12548
Austin, Texas 78711-2548
How do I get more information about the Public Information Act?
You can call the Attorney General’s Open Government Hotline at 877-673-6839, or download The Texas Attorney General’s Public Information Handbook here: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/sites/default/files/files/divisions/open-government/publicinfo_hb.pdf