Texas AG Opinion Causes County Clerks to Shut Down Records Access

One office blocked records with crime-scene tape.

by / February 27, 2007
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott rendered an opinion last week that government bodies are prohibited from disclosing Social Security Numbers in government records, and that disclosing such information is a criminal offense under the Public Information Act.

The opinion has created a furor among county clerks. A notice on the Travis County Clerk's site says: "We are currently evaluating a recently released Attorney Generals Opinion. One possible result is that images of documents will have to be removed from Internet access unless the Attorney General takes more positive action on this issue. This could occur as soon as February 26, 2007. We regret any inconvenience this may cause."

The Williamson County Clerk Web site has a similar notice: "You should expect long lines in the clerk's office as every document must be thoroughly reviewed by staff prior to making a copy for the requestor. Thank you for your patience during this necessary transition.

According to an article in today's Austin American-Statesman panicked clerks have closed public records access computer terminals and one office blocked records with crime-scene tape.