Request for email metadata (Office of the Governor)

Matt Chapman - Free Our Info, NFP filed this request with the Office of the Governor of Texas.
Tracking #

OR2018-15849

Multi Request Request for email metadata
Status
Completed

Communications

From: Matt Chapman - Free Our Info, NFP

To Whom It May Concern:

Pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act, I hereby request the following records:

For all non-personal emails accounts in use by the governor and its staff, please provide me the following information for all emails sent and received between March 5 2018 and March 9, 2018.

1. From address
2. To address
3. bcc addresses
4. cc addresses
5. Time
6. Date

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 10 business days, as the statute requires.

Sincerely,

Matt Chapman

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

This email seeks to clarify or narrow the scope of your request to avoid the production of and potential charges for responsive information that you are not interested in receiving. Additionally, clarifying or narrowing the scope of your public information request can assist the Office of the Governor in providing responsive information to you quicker and potentially avoid a request for decision from the Office of the Attorney General.

I have reached some conservative estimates related to the data you requested and the time necessary to generate it. There are likely over 50,000 messages total. The program that generates these reports is very slow. Generation of a report with the requested data for one hour's worth of sent messages only took approximately 5 hours. For all sent and received messages during the 120 hour period of time you specified, it could take anywhere from 400-1200 hours to generate reports with the data you requested. As you can see, this is a very time consuming request that comprises a large amount of data.

Accordingly, can you clarify or narrow your request in any way?

Ways your request could be narrowed or clarified include but are not limited to: limiting the time period; specifying certain subject matter; identifying specific senders and/or recipients; or restricting your request to a specific division(s) (listed here<https://gov.texas.gov/organization>).

Your narrowing or clarification of this request does not preclude you from making future requests for additional information. After we receive your response, we can begin a search of our records for the information you are seeking. If the OOG does not receive a response from you by the 61st day after the date this email is sent, your request will be considered withdrawn. See Gov't Code § 552.222(d), (g). The withdrawal of your request does not preclude you from requesting the same or other information in the future. You can reach us at publicrecords@gov.texas.gov<mailto:publicrecords@gov.texas.gov> with any questions.

Thank you,

Kenny Moreland
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott
(512) 463-8470

From: Matt Chapman - Free Our Info, NFP

Hi -

The information that i am requesting is not for the contents of the emails themselves - only their metadata. The cost estimate should take this into consideration, as the review for metadata surrounding each email is drastically different in comparison to review for the email contents.

A similar request was done for the city of Houston for all of January 2017, and the responsive records resulted in 6 million emails - 120x fewer emails. For that request, the fees ended up being a little over $300. Following a similar pricing model - for review - this request should cost less than $5.

If you would like to see the results of that request, please review:
https://data.world/sketchcity/city-of-houston-email-metadata-january-march-2017

Thank you for your understanding -
Matt Chapman

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

The figures I previously provided were for the generation of a report containing metadata only, not for the review of any email contents. I cannot speak to our technological capabilities as compared to those of the City of Houston. It may be that the City of Houston has a program that can retrieve this data quicker. As I stated, our program is very slow.

You referenced a cost estimate in your email, and I believe I should clarify part of my original message. When I stated that “[g]eneration of a report with the requested data for one hour's worth of sent messages only took approximately 5 hours,” this was the time the program took to return this data. The employee who entered in the necessary parameters for the program to produce this data spent less time. The 400-1200 hours I estimated was not the time that would be factored into a cost estimate. This information was simply provided to explain how long it could take our program to generate this data, as I extrapolated the 1 hour out to 120 hours and doubled it to account for received messages as well. It is possible that the report will generate much faster for non-business hours, which is why I included a low range of 400 hours (5 hours of report generation for every 1 hour of 40 business hours in a work week, doubled to account for received messages). Again, these are not the hours factored into a cost estimate. I included that information to explain how this could be a slow process, which is why clarification or narrowing could be helpful. A cost estimate will be based on the actual time spent by our employees to locate, compile, manipulate, and reproduce information.

To that end, before your request can be considered received and a cost estimate generated, I need a response as to whether you can clarify or narrow your request in any of the ways I suggested or otherwise?

If you have any questions, please contact me at publicrecords@gov.texas.gov or 512-463-8470.

Sincerely,

Kenny Moreland

Assistant General Counsel

Office of Governor Greg Abbott

From: Matt Chapman - Free Our Info, NFP

I would like to ask that this request remain as-is without any narrowing beyond the scope of the original request. Upon reading your response, it seems that the request for clarification and narrowing is with your understanding that this request is for email contents - which it is not. The information that I am requesting is still not for the emails, but for the metadata that surrounds the emails themselves, which for all intents and purposes are separate documents. Should the process for review include the scanning of individual emails, then I would like to humbly ask for reconsideration in the required steps for review in order to fulfill this request.

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

Please find the attached cost estimate for your public information request below. If you have any questions, please contact me at publicrecords@gov.texas.gov<mailto:publicrecords@gov.texas.gov> or 512-463-8470.

Sincerely,
Kenny Moreland
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott

From: Matt Chapman - Free Our Info, NFP

Could you explain the costs in further detail? The costs do not remotely match up with the city of Houston despite the high likelihood that the records responsive to this request are orders of magnitude fewer than Houston's.

You mentioned over a call that the computer systems involved are slower, and so the costs are much higher. Could you explain that further? If there is anything that I can do to help at a technical level, please let me know - I have over ten years of systems administration experience in large distributed financial environments and can offer many suggestions to reduce the computing costs.

As-is, I do not accept the costs, but would like to again humbly ask that you reconsider the costs in the extent that you have provided.

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

As you noted, my initial fear was that the generation of the reports themselves would be time-consuming for our computer program. This was because the first test report our IT department pulled took 5 hours to return the metadata for sent messages only over a one hour time period. As I explained in my second email dated March 16, 2018, this estimated time to generate the reports “was not the time that would be factored into a cost estimate.” (Emphasis added.) Happily, our IT department figured out how to pull the reports containing the requested metadata in much less time than they initially estimated. All of the reports have been pulled, and there are 71,445 total lines to review.

I noted in the cost estimate letter that you were sent today that certain “labor” is required to produce the requested information to you. This labor is not the time needed to generate the report; rather, the labor is the necessary time for an individual in our office to review each line of the responsive reports and manually redact confidential personal email addresses. Section 552.137 of the Government Code makes certain email addresses confidential by law. The OOG is prohibited from releasing such confidential information to you. Unfortunately, this process cannot be automated and requires each line of the reports to be individually reviewed by a member of our team. A representative sample of the report was reviewed for this confidential information and redacted to reach the figure in our estimate: 6,708 minutes.

You mentioned that our cost estimate does not match up with what you were provided by the City of Houston. I cannot speak to the practices of other governmental bodies. I did review the spreadsheet you linked containing information obtained from the City of Houston, and it contains multiple instances of email addresses that may actually be confidential under section 552.137 of the Government Code. It is possible that they failed do review the information for such personal email addresses.

I hope this provides a better understanding of our cost estimate letter.

Sincerely,

Kenny Moreland
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott

From: Matt Chapman - Free Our Info, NFP

Thank you for your thorough response. This makes much more sense now. Could the scope of the request be limited to just March 5th?

Also, please bear in mind that excel can be used to filter unique rows: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/filter-for-unique-values-or-remove-duplicate-values-ccf664b0-81d6-449b-bbe1-8daaec1e83c2

Additionally, I can provide an excel spreadsheet that can be used to redact information and identify unique email addresses based on a small set of criteria. Let me know if you would like to discuss it, as it has been helpful in other jurisdictions.

Thanks and regards,
Matt Chapman

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

I would be happy to limit the scope of your request to any time range you would prefer. The reports for March 5th contain 14,223 lines of data, which I estimate would require 1,335 minutes of “labor” to manipulate the data by redacting the aforementioned confidential information. Using the same rates for labor and overhead as the previous cost estimate, this would come out to a total estimated cost of $400.50. If you do wish to limit your request to this scope, please let me know so that I can prepare and send an official cost estimate for you.

I appreciate your suggestions regarding Excel filters or spreadsheets that be used to redact information. Unfortunately, I do not believe either would change the situation in this instance. As I mentioned before, there is no way to automate this process. The issue is not the identification or location of unique e-mail addresses – we are able to use Excel’s search functions to easily identify non-governmental e-mail addresses. However, not all non-governmental e-mail addresses are confidential. To understand this further, you may review section 552.137 of the Government Code<http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.552.htm#552.137>. Section 552.137 generally makes personal e-mail addresses confidential, but it also lists 5 exceptions to this confidentiality. Accordingly, a member of our team has to review the context of each line containing a non-governmental e-mail address to determine if it is confidential or if one of these 5 exceptions apply. Section 552.137’s confidentiality also does not apply to the private e-mail addresses of government officials or employees who use their private e-mail addresses to conduct official government business. See Austin Bulldog v. Leffingwell, 490 S.W.3d 240 (Tex. App.—Austin 2016, no pet.). This is why each line of the report containing a potentially confidential e-mail address must be reviewed manually.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Kenny Moreland
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott
(512) 463-8470

From: Matt Chapman - Free Our Info, NFP

Thank you for the detailed information! I would like to continue forward in the request for just March 5th for the mentioned 14,223 lines of data.

Looking forward to seeing the final cost estimate.

Thanks and regards,
Matt Chapman

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

Thank you for the below reply. I am preparing the official cost estimate letter for your most recently narrowed request: sent and received emails dated March 5th, comprising 14,223 lines of data. However, before doing so I have one last request for narrowing. Are you willing to narrow your request to exclude information the OOG believes is subject to sections 552.107 and 552.139 of the Government Code?

In addition to personal e-mail addresses made confidential by section 552.137 of the Government Code, the report contains information the OOG believes is protected and may be withheld under section 552.107 of the Government Code<http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.552.htm#552.107> (attorney-client communications). The OOG also believes there is information that is confidential and must be withheld under section 552.139 of the Government Code<http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.552.htm#552.139> (information that relates to computer network security). Section 552.107 would be applied to the entire line for entries documenting attorney-client communications. Section 552.139 would be applied to individual email addresses related to the OOG’s network security systems. Unlike section 552.137, which specifically permits the redaction of certain e-mail addresses, sections 552.107 and 552.139 will require the OOG to request a ruling from the OAG for permission to withhold this information. This ruling process for the OAG can take up to 45 business days<http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.552.htm#552.306>.

Your narrowing or clarification of this request will not impact the cost estimate in this instance. Additionally, your narrowing or clarification of this request does not preclude you from making future requests for additional information. Your request will be considered officially received after we receive your response to this email. If the OOG does not receive a response from you by the 61st day after the date this email is sent, your request will be considered withdrawn. See Gov’t Code § 552.222(d), (g). The withdrawal of your request does not preclude you from requesting the same or other information in the future. You can reach us at publicrecords@gov.texas.gov<mailto:publicrecords@gov.texas.gov> with any questions.

Kenny Moreland
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott
(512) 463-8470

From: Matt Chapman - Free Our Info, NFP

Hi - I would prefer to keep the request as-is and I'm fine waiting up to 45 extra days.

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

Please find the attached cost estimate for your public information request. This cost estimate is in response to your narrowed request, as originally set out on April 6, 2018. If you have any questions, please contact me at publicrecords@gov.texas.gov<mailto:publicrecords@gov.texas.gov> or 512-463-8470.

Sincerely,

Kenny Moreland
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott

From: Matt Chapman - Free Our Info, NFP


To Whom It May Concern:

Please find enclosed a check for $400.05 to satisfy the fee associated with the attached public records request.

Thank you.

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

The OOG will be requesting a decision from the Office of the Attorney General on the information you requested. Our request for a decision is due 10 business days from the date we received your payment of the estimated costs, which was April 17, 2018. Accordingly, you should expect to receive a copy of our request for a decision by May 1, 2018.

Sincerely,

Kenny Moreland
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott

From: Office of the Governor

May 1, 2018

Matt Chapman
MuckRock
requests@muckrock.com<mailto:requests@muckrock.com>
VIA EMAIL ONLY

RE: OOG PIR # 102-18

Mr. Chapman,

This email is in response to your public information request to the Office of the Governor (“OOG”), which was narrowed on April 5, 2018, and which you declined to further narrow on April 10, 2018. A copy of your request follows this email.

The OOG has reviewed its files and has located information responsive to your request. The OOG asserts portions of the responsive information is or may be excepted from required disclosure under the Public Information Act. The OOG has requested a ruling from the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General pursuant to Government Code § 552.301. A copy of the OOG’s brief submitted to the Open Records Division is attached.

If you have any questions, please contact me at 512-463-8470 or publicrecords@gov.texas.gov<mailto:publicrecords@gov.texas.gov>.

Thank you,

Kenny Moreland
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott
(512) 463-8470

From: Matt Chapman - Free Our Info, NFP

Hi - has there been any new progress on the review that is going into this request?

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

The OOG requested a ruling on May 1, 2018, from the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General (the “OAG”) pursuant to Government Code § 552.301. The OAG has 45 business days (i.e. excluding weekends and holidays) to render its decision. The OOG has not received a ruling at this time.

Sincerely,

Kenny Moreland
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott
(512) 463-8470

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

My name is Joseph Behnke, and I am the new Public Information Coordinator for the Office of the Governor (the “OOG”). Thank you for touching base.

Kenny Moreland noted in his May 16, 2018, that the OOG requested a decision on May 1, 2018, from the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General (the “Attorney General”) pursuant to Government Code § 552.301. May 1, 2018, was not the estimated completion date, but rather the date the OOG requested the decision and the date from which the Attorney General begins its ruling-issuing process and calculates its deadlines. Ordinarily, the Attorney General has 45 business days (i.e., excluding weekends and holidays) to render an Open Records Letter Ruling. Thus, the Attorney General’s 45 business day deadline will fall in early September 2018. Although the Attorney General may issue a ruling before then, they have not yet issued a ruling to the OOG in this matter. Accordingly, because we await the Attorney General’s decision, we cannot provide an estimated completion date at this time.

If you have any questions, please contact me at 512-463-1750 or publicrecords@gov.texas.gov<mailto:publicrecords@gov.texas.gov>.
Best regards,

Joseph Behnke
Public Information Coordinator
Assistant General Counsel
Office of the Governor

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

May 1, 2018, was not the estimated completion date; rather, May 1, 2018, was the date the OOG requested a decision from the Open Records Division of the Office of the Attorney General (the “OAG”).

The OAG has 45 business days to render an Open Records Letter ruling. Thus, the OAG’s deadline by which it must issue a decision falls in September 2018. Although the OAG may issue a ruling before then, the OAG has not yet issued a ruling to the OOG in this matter. Accordingly, because we await the OAG’s decision, we cannot provide an estimated completion date at this time.
Best regards,

Joseph Behnke
Public Information Coordinator
Assistant General Counsel
Office of the Governor

From: Office of the Governor

An interim response, stating the request is being processed.

From: Matt Chapman - Free Our Info, NFP

Hi - with the response from OAG, could you please provide me with an estimated completion date for this request?

Thank you -
Matt Chapman
Free Our Info, NFP

From: Office of the Governor

Mr. Chapman,

Thank you for following up. The OOG received Open Records Letter Ruling No. 2018-15849 on July 10, 2018. We are currently making redactions pursuant to the ruling and section 552.137 of the Government Code pursuant to Open Records Decision No. 684 (2009). Over 10,000 personal email addresses must be reviewed for confidentiality and, when appropriate, redacted in order to release the responsive information. Accordingly, we anticipate providing the information to you on or by July 31, 2018, at 5:00 PM.
Best regards,

Joseph Behnke
Public Information Coordinator
Assistant General Counsel
Office of the Governor

From: Office of the Governor

July 31, 2018

Mr. Matt Chapman

requests@muckrock.com<mailto:requests@muckrock.com>

VIA EMAIL ONLY

RE: OOG PIR # 102-18

Dear Mr. Chapman:

This email is in response to your narrowed public information request to the Office of the Governor (“OOG”), received by the OOG on April 10, 2018. A copy of your clarified request is attached.

The OOG requested an open records letter ruling from the Office of the Attorney General as to whether information responsive to your request was excepted from disclosure under the Public Information Act. On July 3, 2018, the Office of the Attorney General issued Open Records Letter Ruling No. OR2018-15849 (2018). That ruling concludes some of the information at issue must be released. The information that must be released is attached with this email.

If you have any questions, please contact me at (512) 463-1750 or publicrecords@gov.texas.gov<mailto:publicrecords@gov.texas.gov>.

Sincerely,

Joseph Behnke
Assistant General Counsel
Office of Governor Greg Abbott

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