TPA Hotline

Notices of impounded estray are important to ranchers missing cattle

Q: Our county sheriff caught and penned a few head of cattle that broke fence and then merely posted what he considered a “notice of estray” on his social media page. I told him those notices are supposed to be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county, etc. He said he doesn’t have to. I am familiar with the publication law so what I am looking for is a Texas Attorney General opinion that backs up what I am telling the sheriff. Can you help?

Publishers can set conditions for publishing submitted articles

Q: A prominent member of the community submitted something labeled as a “news report” on a controversial local topic. He asked us to publish it in the news section of our next edition under his byline. It’s not straight reportage — obviously an opinion piece — it’s way too long and we’ve learned it is the work of a ghostwriter who lives in town. My tendency would be not to run it for the aforementioned reasons. Any thoughts?

Guidelines for barcode placement available online

Q: If I file a public information request for a copy of a contract from a local governmental body, and they deny my request and then seek a Texas Attorney General opinion as to the validity of their denial, would the local governmental body have to provide a copy of the contract to the Attorney General as part of the process?
 A: Let’s check the Texas Attorney General’s 2018 Public Information Handbook, Section VI, titled, “Attorney General Determines Whether Information Is Subject to an Exception.” 

Arrest warrants, supporting affidavits are public records

Q: The police chief of one of several cities our newspapers cover reported in a public meeting that his officers had issued several hundred citations during a recent month. A county seat city that we also cover has more than double the population of the first city. But its officers issued fewer than half of the number of citations that the smaller city issued during the same period. I want to do a story about this, so I need to find the state law that says revenue from a city’s citations cannot exceed a set percentage of the city’s total revenue for the prior year.

Election commissions not subject to open meetings act rules

Q: Our county election commission has five members: the county judge, county clerk, tax assessor-collector and the chairs of the county Republican and Democratic parties. The commission appoints members to the early voting ballot board, appoints the early voting signature verification committee, approves the purchase of election supplies, etc. Is the commission subject to the open meetings law?

Copy of writ clocks in at one dollar per page

Q: A death row inmate filed a writ of habeas corpus to contest his imprisonment. This is a ground zero, front-page news story in my coverage zone. I need to study the writ and it is about 500 pages in length. A copy for public viewing resides in the district clerk’s office, but I do not have time to sit in the district clerk’s office to read the document, take notes, flip pages back and forth, make calls, etc. I was ready to pay 10 cents per page, but the district clerk said a digital version of the document is not available and she cited Government Code Sec.