Influx in open records requests spurs Leander to hire new position, update processes

Leander is amending its Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget to hire a new deputy city secretary to assist with open records requests. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Leander is amending its Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget to hire a new deputy city secretary to assist with open records requests. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Leander is amending its Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget to hire a new deputy city secretary to assist with open records requests. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

The number of open records requests the city of Leander has received increased by 45% from 2017 to 2018, according to city documents. The number received this year—569—has already exceeded the number received last year, 484.

The influx in open records requests is leading the city to hire a new position to help fulfill requests. Leander City Council voted 5-1 Nov. 7 to amend the fiscal year 2019-20 budget to hire an additional deputy city secretary position to assist with fulfilling open records requests.

Information produced by state and local agencies falls under the Texas Public Information Act, meaning the public has the right to view it. Requestable items include everything from contracts and audits to emails and text messages.

A single public information request can contain requests for multiple items. For example, in 2019, the city has received requests for 2,361 separate items, according to city documents.

The new position will cost the city $59,765, according to city documents. The city also voted to hire a new building inspector, which will cost $56,240.

Council Member Christine Sederquist voted against the additions because, she said, she wishes these needed roles had been part of the budget conversations earlier this year. She said she thinks the city should not have been so quick to lower the tax rate if the city is “bursting at the seams” administratively.

The city is also taking steps to standardize its public records request process. The city is asking all records requests be sent to a single mailing address or email address, or through the city’s website. Requests can be delivered in person as well, according to city documents.

The city is also implementing the cost structure allowed by state law for public records requests. The city had not previously been charging what it could for open records requests, but now it will, according to city spokesperson Mike Neu.

“We’re following the standard described in the Texas Public Information Act,” Neu said.

Council Members Jason Shaw and Sederquist voted against these two changes Nov. 7. Shaw and Sederquist suggested open records requests be made available online, since many requests the city has been receiving lately have been for the same items.

“Like my text messages,” Shaw said. “Put them in a file and let everybody see them. They’ve already been requested, and maybe this will eliminate some of these [open records requests] that are just the same thing over and over again.”

To handle the influx in requests, the city has been using an administrative assistant from the Leander Fire Department, Stefanie Brown. Brown said many requests are redundant, though not necessarily from the same person. She said some requests can take a few hours to fulfill, while others can take days.

City Council also unanimously agreed Nov. 7 to amend its Email Server Policy, which it created earlier this year to streamline fulfilling open records requests, to include text archiving software. Now, the archive server will collect text messages of City Council members that contain public information.

Staff in the city secretary’s office can retrieve emails and texts from the server to fulfill requests. Previously, if text messages containing public information were requested, council members retrieved the messages themselves, according to Neu.
By Marisa Charpentier

Reporter, Cedar Park | Leander

Marisa Charpentier joined Community Impact in September 2018. After working as an intern, she became a reporter for the Cedar Park | Leander edition in October 2018. Charpentier graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with degrees in journalism and Plan II Honors.


Volunteers of Austin Vaccine Angels gathered after becoming fully vaccinated. (Courtesy Jodi Holzband)
Grassroots groups aimed at vaccine outreach look toward the future

For the past five months, grassroots volunteer groups have been working to connect thousands of Central Texans to COVID-19 vaccines.

Leander ISD admin building
Leander ISD board passes $387M budget with 2% raises, new campus staffing

The budget includes 2% midpoint staff raises, campus positions for Tarvin Elementary opening in August, start-up positions for Elementary School No. 29 opening in 2022 and other district expenditures.

Washington Prime Group Inc. owns six area shopping centers, including The Arboretum. (Courtesy The Arboretum)
Owner of Austin-area shopping centers files for bankruptcy; entertainment complex coming to Cedar Park and more top area news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from the Central Texas area.

Leander ISD is expected to add over 12,000 students in 10 years to its current population of 40,761 students. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Committee suggests $933M bond project list to Leander ISD board

The $933.4 million reccomendation includes elementary school, middle school, high school and districtwide projects.

Leander Bryson farmstead
Leander to create plan to preserve Historic Bryson Farmstead

The city plans to improve the historic Leander property for public use.

The Bloomhouse—an 1,100-square-foot home in the hills of West Austin—was built in the 1970s by University of Texas architecture students for fellow student Dalton Bloom. It was featured in the Austin Weird Homes Tour of 2020. (Brian Perdue/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin Weird Homes Tour ends; Z’Tejas to close Arboretum restaurant and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

Leander homes
Cedar Park, Leander average home prices in May jump at least 40% from 2020

The average home price in Cedar Park was $563,335—a 56.2% year-over-year increase from May 2020.

Z’Tejas to close Arboretum restaurant, open new Avery Ranch spot in fall

The last day of service at Z'Tejas in the Arboretum is July 2.

Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center to get nearly $2M in federal aid for construction budget gap

The funds will go to help the Williamson County Children's Advocacy Center cover increasing lumber costs.

Candlewood Suites Northwest Austin
Williamson County declines lawsuit against Austin over Candlewood Suites saga—for now

Williamson County did not hold a vote to file a lawsuit against the city of Austin over the contentious Candlewood Suites property in Northwest Austin.