Important update to the Texas Public Information Act

Nov. 18, 2019

In June, Governor Greg Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 944, which became effective Sept. 1. The law amended the Texas Public Information Act to require state employees to retain public information on their personally owned devices or provide it to the university for retention.

According to state law, all information that is “written, produced, collected, assembled, or maintained…in connection with the transaction of official business” is public information. That includes any official communication related to official UNT business, whether in email, text or file format. This is the case whether the information is located on a device issued by UNT or it is located on an employee’s privately owned device (i.e. cell phone, laptop, tablet, etc.) or personal email account. It’s the content of the message and not the medium through which the message is delivered that determines whether information is public information. 

Certain public information, including business-related text messages on a private device and emails on a private email platform, must be either archived by the employee, or turned over to the university for preservation. Read UNT’s Records Management and Retention policy and see information about the Records Retention Schedule.

As of Sept. 1, all employees should be aware of the following:

  • Employees must preserve or archive any documents or communications related to university business including, but not limited to:
    • Emails on private email platforms
    • Text messages on personal phones
    • Documents on private devices
  • Employees may not delete these communications
  • Public information must be given to the university, if requested
  • Failure to preserve and/or provide public records may result in disciplinary action and other penalties under state law
  • These requirements continue after an employee leaves the university
  • Preservation of “transitory information” is not required
  • Transitory information is defined as routine messages, such as telephone message notifications, internal meeting notices and other routine information used for communication that does not document specific business transactions. This information is not essential for fulfilling the obligations of the law, or to document of the institution’s function
  • To aid compliance, limit the use of your privately-owned device(s) to routine communications
  • To aid compliance, do not use a private email address for official work-related business
  • Never maintain confidential university information on your personal device

Read a list of Frequently Asked Questions on this topic.

Contact UNT System Public Information Coordinator Alice Hawes, alice.hawes@untsystem.edu, if you have questions about this message or would like public information training for your department.