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April 12, 1999

Mr. Bob Jackson
Deputy General Counsel
Texas Department of Transportation
125 East 11th Street
Austin, Texas 78701-2483

OR99-0981

Dear Mr. Jackson:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 123405.

The Texas Department of Transportation received a request for "any compliance violation or complaints submitted against the wrecker/towing company known as Bill's Wrecker service" located at 6550 Old Highway 90 West in San Antonio, Texas. You indicate that you will release the requested information except for information which would identify the persons who filed the complaints. You argue that the complainant's identity may be withheld under section 552.101 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and have reviewed the documents at issue.

The informer's privilege has been recognized by Texas courts. See Aguilar v. State, 444 S.W.2d 935, 937 (Tex. Crim. App. 1969). It protects from disclosure the identities of persons who report activities over which the governmental body has criminal or quasi-criminal law-enforcement authority, provided that the subject of the information does not already know the informer's identity. Open Records Decision Nos. 515 at 3 (1988), 208 at 1-2 (1978). The informer's privilege protects the identities of individuals who report violations of statutes to the police or similar law-enforcement agencies, as well as those who report violations of statutes with civil or criminal penalties to "administrative officials having a duty of inspection or of law enforcement within their particular spheres." Open Records Decision No. 279 at 2 (1981) (citing Wigmore, Evidence, 2374, at 767 (McNaughton rev. ed. 1961)). The report must be of a violation of a criminal or civil statute. See Open Records Decision Nos. 582 at 2 (1990), 515 at 4-5 (1988).

Although you do not explain how the privilege is applicable in this instance, we are able to determine from the face of the documents that the complainant is reporting alleged violations of law that carry potential civil penalties. See 43 T.A.C. 18.94 (sanctions). The Texas Department of Transportation has a duty of inspection or of law enforcement over vehicle storage facilities. See, e.g., 43 T.A.C. 18.88, 18.89, 18.91, 18.92. We find that you may withhold the information in the requested documents that would identify the informer. We have marked the information that may be withheld.

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 have questions about this ruling, please contact our office.

Sincerely,

Don Ballard
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JDB/nc

Ref: ID# 123405

Encl:: Marked documents

cc: Mr. Edgar Terrazas
8546 Paloma Creek
San Antonio, Texas 78250
(w/o enclosures)


 

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