Texas university finally hands over security camera records

TEXAS — After more than a year, an ongoing legal battle and the passage of a new law, a student newspaper at the University of Texas at Austin finally got what it asked for in an open-records request — or at least some of it.

University officials turned over financial information about a campuswide network of security cameras to The Daily Texan in February, fulfilling part of an open-records request made by reporter Jonathan York in October 2002.

York requested documents related to the locations, technical specifications, operating hours and cost of the cameras.

The university denied his request, claiming disclosure of the school’s security measures would threaten national security. The university requested an opinion from the state attorney general, who sided with the paper by saying that the documents were not exempt from disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act. The university responded by suing the attorney general. A state district court threw out the lawsuit, but the university filed an appeal in a state appellate court. That court has since remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. 

Meanwhile, the state Legislature passed House Bill 9 in June 2003, exempting from disclosure all of the information The Daily Texan had requested except for financial records.

Pursuant to the new law, the university gave York the financial documents, which he used to write an article in the Feb. 28 issue of The Daily Texan. The article reported that the university spent between $300,000 and $400,000 on the cameras over the past seven years.

The court battle continues, however, over the other types of information requested by the newspaper. The case is pending in Travis County District Court.