From March 12-18, Community Impact Newspaper is celebrating Sunshine Week, by educating readers on what records are available to the public, how to request them and how to use public information. Here are some answers to some common questions about open records requests.

What is public information?

In Texas, information produced by state and local agencies is covered under the Texas Public Information Act, which means the public has a right to view it. The act defines public information as "written, produced, collected, assembled or maintained under a law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business."

What kinds of things are considered open records?

Anything written down by a local or state agency can be open to the public including reports, audits, contracts, manuals, votes, working papers and emails. These documents can contain names, salaries, numbers, budgets and anything else pertinent to the records you are requesting.

How do you make an open records request?

State your request in writing and submit it to whoever is in charge of managing the records for a given entity. You can send your request via email, mail, or hand deliver it in person, but to trigger the law, it must be written down. In Texas, there is no one accepted format for a request, although we have included a sample letter below. The agency or entity should take no longer than 10 days to fulfill the request or should make contact about any potential barriers to providing you with records within that time.