Hilltop Views files complaint with attorney general over open records


Hilltop Views sent a complaint to the Texas Attorney General Jan. 26, disputing the amount of time UPD needs to release requested police reports

Hilltop Views has filed a complaint with the Texas Attorney General’s Office over the timetable of the release of St. Edward’s University Police Department reports requested by the paper in October.

On Oct. 14, Hilltop Views requested all UPD reports involving alcohol and drugs from Jan.1, 2010 through Sept. 1, 2013. On Oct. 27, Risk Managment at St. Edward’s asked the attorney general’s office for guidance on what sensitive information can be released. The attorney general’s office released their opinion [OR2016-00726] on Jan. 11, which can be found on the attorney general’s website, under open government.

The request, which totaled 142 cases, will come at a cost of $350, UPD Office Specialist Kathryn Paris said. UPD released the first five reports on Jan. 22, and will release 10 reports every Friday, starting Jan. 29. At that rate, April 29 will be the expected date to fulfill the request.

According to the Texas attorney general’s website: “Based on the Public Information Act, the attorney general expects that, upon receiving the ruling, the governmental body will either release the public information promptly pursuant to section 552.221(a) of the Government Code or file a lawsuit challenging the ruling pursuant to section 552.324 of the Government Code.”

The word “promptly” means “as soon as possible under the circumstances, that is, within a reasonable time, without delay,” according to 552.221 (a) of the Government Code.

“We are not delaying the release of the records, and we will continue to process the request as quickly as we can,” Paris said in an email.

This request came after a similar request for Sept. 1, 2013 to Sept. 3, 2015. UPD gave Hilltop Views the reports from the first request, totaling over 35 reports and costing just over $67.

Private university police departments, like St. Edward’s UPD, are now considered to be governmental bodies in relation to Texas open records laws, according to Senate Bill 308, which the Legislature passed last session. Under the law, which took effect Sept. 1, incident reports generated by UPD are now subject to the state’s open records laws. Anyone may file an open records request as long as he or she pays the fees associated with it.

Hilltop Views is requesting incident reports in order to analyze patterns and give the campus community a clearer idea of safety issues.