Univ. of Texas sues Attorney General to dispute disclosure of security cameras

TEXAS— The University of Texas filed a lawsuit Jan. 15 against the TexasAttorney General, challenging its ruling that would require almost completedisclosure of documents relating to campus surveillance cameras.InOctober, the University of Texas at Austin student newspaper, The DailyTexan, requested information pertaining to the location, operating hours,technical specifications and cost of the cameras, along with the contracts ofcompanies that sold and operated them. “Our investigative reporter wasjust following a tip and filed a request to see what came up,” said DailyTexan Managing Editor Ryan Pittman. “We don’t know the extent to which [thecameras are] used, how many there are and how much money is spent, and that’swhy we filed the request.”The university refused to disclose theinformation, explaining that some records did not exist and the release of otherfiles would pose a national security risk. They argued that records thatinclude the specifications and locations of the cameras could allow “criminalmischief” to go undetected. The university forwarded the matter to the attorneygeneral’s office, which then reviewed the request.In December, actingAttorney General Greg Abbott ruled that surveillance cameras were not part ofthe national security plan and that the university had to disclose the recordsin accordance with the Texas Open Records Act.Shortly thereafter, theuniversity filed a lawsuit against Abbott, asking the Travis County DistrictCourt to exempt from disclosure the information requested by The DailyTexan. This is the first time that UT-Austin has filed suit against theAttorney General regarding a public information request, said UT General CounselPatricia Ohlendorf.”What makes this different is that we feel that weare very obligated to protect the safety of all those who visit the campus, aswell as our own employees and students,” Ohlendorf said. “We believe that making[the records] public could hamper the efforts of our law enforcement and publicsafety.” The Daily Texan is not legally involved in the lawsuit.