On June 6, 2007, the Texas Attorney General ruled the Woodlands Community Association (WCA) must release requested information regarding franchise fees. The original request for the information was made days after the WCA held an executive session pertaining to a franchise fee issue that has recently come to light.
The WCA originally refused to release the requested information claiming, “[e]xecutive sessions are closed meetings not subject to disclosure.“ The Public Information Act (the “Act”) requires an entity that is subject to the Act to ask for a ruling from the Texas Attorney General if the entity feels that the requested information is not public. In this case, even after a reminder by the requestor of their responsibilities as an entity that is subject to the Act, the WCA refused to ask for a ruling. Due to the WCA’s inability to follow state statutes, a complaint was filed with the Attorney General regarding this issue.
After some persuasion by the Attorney General, the WCA did request a ruling in this matter. The just released ruling states the WCA failed to procedurally comply with the law by failing to respond in the allotted time-frame. The ruling also states,
“a governmental body’s failure to comply with the procedural requirements of section 552.301 results in the legal presumption that the requested information is public and must be released unless a compelling reason exist to withhold the information from disclosure.”
The ruling goes on to say no compelling reason not to release the requested information was presented. Therefore, the requested information must be released.