The Library Mall at the University of North Texas

The Library Mall at the University of North Texas.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office has ruled the University of North Texas System does not have to release a brand audit, more than two months after the Denton Record-Chronicle first requested the document.

The brand audit, conducted by outside firm Carnegie Dartlet, cost $142,000 plus billed expenses and was designed to look at all three universities in the system and their marketing strategies.

The Attorney General’s Office said the document did not have to be released publicly because of the Boeing decision, a 2015 Texas Supreme Court ruling that allows negotiations between public and private companies to be kept secret.

“You state the marketplace for research funding is ‘highly competitive’ and release of information at issue would reveal system’s strengths and weaknesses,” the attorney general’s ruling states. “Based on these representations and our review, we find you demonstrated the system has specific marketplaces interest and release of information at issue would give advantage to a competitor or bidder.”

The Boeing decision has had large implications for the freedom of information, said Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

“The Boeing ruling led to 2,700 decisions that really lowered the standard for information about competitive bidding,” she said. “This ruling reduces the standard people have to prove it’s competitive.”

The provision could be rolled back soon, though. A bill on the governor’s desk would limit how the exemption could be used and focuses on disclosing governmental contracts.

Because of the recent legislation and because the ruling does not prohibit releasing the document, the Record-Chronicle submitted a new request to obtain the brand audit.

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @jennafduncan.

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