Friday, January 06, 2012

Public Information Act Change

As the Public Information Act consultant at NTLP, I attend annually the Open Government Conference provided by the Office of the Texas Attorney General. One of the points made at last month's conference is, in my opinion, very important for many Texas libraries.

The 82nd Legislature amended Texas Government Code 552.117 to indicate that each (current and former) employee or official of a governmental body may choose whether to allow public access to his/her own home address, home telephone number, emergency contact information, or Social Security number or information which reveals whether the person has family members provided he/she states, to the governmental body, that choice in writing by certain deadlines. (See 552.117 for deadlines relative to former employees and officials.)

Because we were told that, for current employees and current elected officials, the confidentiality would take effect as soon as the person submitted the request, I'm encouraging all library directors to see that staff and Board Members know right away that the option exists. To help in that effort, I've designed two forms for collecting (updating?) that information and getting signatures from those who wish to have their information treated as confidential.

One form collects information from Board members, and the other collects information from employees. Both are designed to be printed, double-sided, on the library's letterhead, and both were produced with in large print in order to comply with the 16 pt. accessibility standard. (OK, I have to admit that I cheated somewhat in order to assure that all of the information would appear on a single sheet of paper. Let me know if you need it produced in full compliance, and I'll create a legal-sized document for you.)

The Board Member form also collects information which may help maintain a balanced board. The section just above that gathers information needed for the webpage and, often just by the staff or other Board members (such as the birthdates). The voter registration number is on there for the benefit of Boards whose bylaws require that all Board members be registered voters and/or live within the library's community.

Please note that 552.117 covers only employees of government bodies and officials of those bodies. To use either form with anyone who doesn't fall into one of those categories would be misleading since the code generally does not apply beyond the public sector.