As a concerned citizen, investigative reporter, or sleuthing competitor, you may want to submit an open records request without revealing your identity to the governmental body. With some limited exceptions, a governmental body can’t refuse to respond to an open records request or refuse to release information responsive to the request because the requestor wishes to remain anonymous.
Under the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA), “it is the policy of this state that each person is entitled . . . to complete information about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees.”
A request for public information must be submitted to the governmental body in writing but can be submitted via various methods:
- United States mail;
- hand delivery; or
- any other appropriate method approved by the governmental body, including fax and electronic submission through the governmental body’s Internet website.
Each governmental body is required to “prominently display a sign” that tells requestors how they can submit a public information request. Most governmental bodies provide information on their website about how requestors can submit public information requests.
A requestor is not required to establish their identity to the governmental body to obtain information under the TPIA. Further, the TPIA prohibits a governmental body from inquiring into a requestor’s reasons or motives for requesting information.
According to the Texas Attorney General, “the identity of the requestor is generally not a factor to be considered when a governmental body receives an open record request.” A governmental body generally can’t refuse to respond to a public information request or refuse to release information responsive to the request because the requestor wishes to remain anonymous.
There are three scenarios where the governmental body can require the requestor to provide “proper identification.”
- One, if the requested information relates to motor vehicle records, the requestor must identify themselves so the governmental body can determine whether the requestor is authorized to receive the information. The Texas Transportation Code generally prohibits the release of motor vehicle records unless the requestor is the subject of the records.
- Two, if the requestor is seeking an interior photograph taken by an appraisal district for property tax appraisal purposes, the requestor must identify themselves so the governmental body can determine whether the requestor is eligible to receive the photograph(s). Generally, such photos can only be released to a requestor who had an ownership interest in the improvement to property shown in the photo on the date it was taken.
- Third, a governmental body is not required to comply with a request for information from an inmate or his agent, other than the inmate’s attorney, even if the requested information pertains to the inmate.
The TPIA requires governmental bodies to “promptly produce public information” upon request. When they don’t, the requestor can file an informal complaint with the Texas Attorney General. The requestor also has certain civil remedies under the TPIA, including the right to file a suit for writ of mandamus compelling the governmental body to produce the requested information. A “substantially prevail[ing]” plaintiff is entitled to recover their attorney’s fees.
For more information, check out our blog post: The government is refusing to give me public information. What can I do?
 Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.001.
 Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.234.
 1 Tex. Admin. Code § 70.11(d).
 Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.222(c).
 Tex. Transp. Code §§ 730.001, et seq.
 Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.222(c-1).
 Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.155.
 Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.208.
 Tex. Gov’t Code § 552.221.