|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
February 11, 1999
Mr. Ajay R. Shah
Dear Mr. Shah:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 122273.
You inform us that the City of Dallas Police Department (the "department") received a request for investigation reports for a particular address. You claim that the requested information is excepted from public disclosure under sections 552.101 and 552.108 of the Government Code. You have provided for our review the information at issue.
Pursuant to section 552.301(b), a governmental body is required to submit to this office (1) general written comments stating the reasons why the stated exceptions apply that would allow the information to be withheld, (2) a copy of the written request for information, and (3) a copy of the specific information requested or representative samples, labeled to indicate which exceptions apply to which parts of the documents. You did not, however, submit to this office a copy of the written request for information.
Pursuant to section 552.303(c) of the Government Code, this office notified you by letter dated December 14, 1998, that you had failed to submit the information required by section 552.301(b). We requested that you provide this information to our office within seven days from the date of receiving the notice. The notice further stated that under section 552.303(e) failure to comply would result in the legal presumption that the information at issue is public information.
You did not provide our office with the information that was requested. Therefore, as provided by section 552.303(e), the information that is the subject of this request for information is presumed to be public information. Information that is presumed public must be released unless a governmental body demonstrates a compelling interest to withhold the information to overcome this presumption. See Hancock v. State Bd. of Ins., 797 S.W.2d 379, 381-82 (Tex. App.--Austin 1990, no writ) (governmental body must make compelling demonstration to overcome presumption of openness pursuant to statutory predecessor to Gov't Code § 552.302); Open Records Decision No. 319 (1982).
Where information is made confidential by other law or where third party interests are at issue a compelling reason exists to overcome the presumption that information is open under section 552.303(e). See Open Records Decision No. 150 (1977). Here, the information is made confidential by section 261.201 of the Family Code. Section 261.201(a) of the Family Code provides as follows:
(a) The following information is confidential, is not subject to public release under Chapter 552, Government Code, and may be disclosed only for purposes consistent with this code and applicable federal or state law or under rules adopted by an investigating agency:
(1) a report of alleged or suspected abuse or neglect made under this chapter and the identity of the person making the report; and
(2) except as otherwise provided in this section, the files, reports, records, communications, and working papers used or developed in an investigation under this chapter or in providing services as a result of an investigation.
Because the requested documents relate to an allegation of child abuse, the documents are within the scope of section 261.201 of the Family Code. You have not indicated that the department has adopted a rule that governs the release of this type of information. Therefore, we assume that no such regulation exists. Given that assumption, the requested documents are confidential pursuant to section 261.201 of the Family Code. See Open Records Decision No. 440 at 2 (1986) (predecessor statute). Accordingly, the department must withhold these documents from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code as information made confidential by law.(1) Furthermore, because section 261.201(a) protects all "files, reports, communications, and working papers" related to an investigation of child abuse, the city must not release front page offense report information in cases of alleged child abuse.
We are resolving this matter with an informal letter ruling rather than with a published open records decision. This ruling is limited to the particular records at issue
under the facts presented to us in this request and should not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you questions about this ruling, please contact our office.
Yours very truly,
Ref: ID# 12273
Enclosures: Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Donya Craddock
1. We note, however, that if the Texas Department of Regulatory Services has created a file on
this alleged abuse, the child's parent(s) may have the statutory right to review that file. See Fam. Code
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US