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Open Records Not So Open Anymore?

By: Pachatta Pope Email
By: Pachatta Pope Email

The state has now made access to public records a little more time consuming.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled last week that all records available to the public can not have Social Security numbers listed. His decision took effect immediately, and that had the county and district clerks offices working to be in compliance.

Failure to follow the ruling could result in a Class C misdemeanor charge.

Both offices experienced delays in their daily operations on Monday. The attorney general's ruling effects every record-keeping office throughout the state of Texas.

In the Brazos Valley, residents are unable to look up public information themselves or electronically. Employees of the county and district clerks offices are now physically evaluating all documents requested to make sure they are in compliance with the ruling.

Brazos County District Clerk Marc Hamlin said his office is having to make copies of the original documents, redacting them or crossing out social security numbers then making copies of those alternated copies.

Hamlin said he wants to eliminate any chance the confidential information gets into the wrong hands. He says this process is time consuming, and in the long run, it will cause record offices to need more space, money, and possibly employees.

All of these concerns caused a bill to be filled on Monday. It will give state and county officials the opportunity to bring these before the state legislature. This bill is expected to be discussed Wednesday in Austin.


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