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September 10, 1999

Ms. Judy Ponder
General Counsel
General Services Commission
P.O. Box 13047
Austin, Texas 78711-3047

OR99-2517

Dear Ms. Ponder:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 128592.

The General Services Commission received a request for grievances filed between January 1, 1998 and July 1, 1999, against named commission employees. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101 and 552.102 of the Government Code.

Section 552.101 protects "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision," including information coming within the common-law right to privacy. Industrial Found. of the South v. Texas Indus. Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977). Common-law privacy protects information if it is highly intimate or embarrassing, such that its release would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person, and it is of no legitimate concern to the public. Id. at 683-85.

Section 552.102(a) protects

information in a personnel file, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, except that all information in the personnel file of an employee of a governmental body is to be made available to that employee or the employee's designated representative as public information is made available under this chapter.

Section 552.102(a) is designed to protect public employees' personal privacy. See also Attorney General Opinion JM-36 (1983). The test for section 552.102(a) protection is the same as that for information protected by common-law privacy under section 552.101. Hubert v. Harte-Hanks Texas Newspapers, Inc., 652 S.W.2d 546, 550 (Tex. App.--Austin 1983, writ ref'd n.r.e.). However, since job-related matters concerning public employees are generally of legitimate public interest, the scope of section 552.102(a) protection is very narrow. See Open Records Decision No. 336 (1982).

Having reviewed your arguments and the information you submitted as responsive to the request, we conclude that none of the information is protected under either of the sections you cite. Therefore, you must release the submitted information.

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,

William Walker
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

WMW/ljp

Ref: ID# 128592

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. R. G. Ratcliffe
Houston Chronicle
1005 Congress Avenue, Suite 770
Austin, Texas 78701
(w/o enclosures)


 

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