Ask an Expert Questions and Answers

Do I have to tell government officials why I want information when I make an open records request?

No. The Texas Public Information Act does not allow government officials to ask why you want the information.

I generally find that a very polite response – with an emphasis on polite – noting that the law doesn’t allow them to ask will generally put an end to that line of questioning.

According to the Texas Attorney General’s office, a government agency is allowed to ask for proper identification of the requestor and for clarification, if necessary, on the information requested.

“Often, an initial open records request may involve the production of more documents than the requestor intended,” according to the attorney general’s Web site. “Similarly, many open records requests ask for information that is not kept by the governmental body in the requested format. In either case, the governmental body can ask the requestor whether a potential narrowing or variation of the request would meet the requestor’s needs.”

For more information about this issue or the Texas Public Information Act, visit the attorney general’s web site at, and then click on the “open government” tab. Down the right side of the screen you will see a prompt for “public information act made easy.” This is a great resource for explaining the law and how it has been interpreted over the years.

By Dianna Hunt

Dianna Hunt, a reporter/editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and former co-owner of the weekly Bosque County News, spent more than 25 years at some of the largest newspapers in Texas and in community journalism.

She has worked at The Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, covering a variety of government beats, including multiple City Halls, federal courts, public education and the Texas Legislature.

Many of those years were also spent as a watchdog/investigative reporter producing stories on racial profiling in the Houston area and throughout Texas, improprieties among nonprofits, failure of federal emergency funding to reach the neediest victims of a tornado, and problems within suburban fire departments in North Texas.

She won the Texas APME Freedom of Information award twice and the national Brechner Award for Freedom of Information for packages of stories about open government, and she has also won state and national awards for feature writing, short features and spot news.

She moved into editing in 2001 to oversee the government reporters at the Star-Telegram, and later moved to the business department as an assistant business editor. She recently returned to reporting in a combined reporting/editing role.

She and her husband, longtime Texas journalist Evan Moore, are also former co-owners of the Bosque County News in Meridian, southwest of Fort Worth, covering a county of about 22,000 people with seven cities and eight school districts.

She is a former board member of the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization, and is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1981 from the University of Texas at Austin.