|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
December 7, 1999
Ms. Katherine Minter Cary
Dear Ms. Cary:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 130279.
The Office of the Attorney General (the "attorney general") received a request for documentation from the requestor's ex-spouse stating that the requestor does not owe any back child support payments. You have released the Notice of Termination of Assignment and Child Support Collection Services to the requestor. You seek to withhold one document, submitted as Exhibit D, pursuant to section 552.101 of the Government Code.(1)
Section 552.101 of the Government Code excepts from disclosure information that is made confidential by law, including information made confidential by statute. Chapter 231 of the Family Code pertains to the administration of Title IV-D child support programs. Chapter 231 contains the following provisions:
Sec. 231.001. DESIGNATION OF TITLE IV-D AGENCY.
The office of the attorney general is designated as the state's Title IV-D agency.
. . . .
Sec. 231.108. CONFIDENTIALITY OF RECORDS AND PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATIONS
(a) . . . all files and records of services provided under this chapter, including information concerning a custodial parent, noncustodial parent, child, and an alleged or presumed father, are confidential.
In this instance, the requestor seeks information contained in a file or record of services provided under chapter 231 of the Family Code. Therefore, we conclude that the requested information is confidential under section 231.108 of the Family Code. The attorney general must withhold the information at issue in Exhibit D pursuant to section 552.101 of the Government Code.
This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and limited to the facts as presented to us; therefore, this ruling must not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records or any other circumstances.
This ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor. For example, governmental bodies are prohibited from asking the attorney general to reconsider this ruling. Gov't Code § 552.301(f). If the governmental body wants to challenge this ruling, the governmental body must appeal by filing suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. § 552.324(b). In order to get the full benefit of such an appeal, the governmental body must file suit within 10 calendar days. Id. § 552.353(b)(3), (c). If the governmental body does not appeal this ruling and the governmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the attorney general have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce this ruling. Id. § 552.321(a).
If this ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. Based on the statute, the attorney general expects that, within 10 calendar days of this ruling, the governmental body will do one of the following three things: 1) release the public records; 2) notify the requestor of the exact day, time, and place that copies of the records will be provided or that the records can be inspected; or 3) notify the requestor of the governmental body's intent to challenge this letter ruling in court. If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things within 10 calendar days of this ruling, then the requestor should report that failure to the attorney general's Open Government Hotline, toll free, at 877/673-6839. The requestor may also file a complaint with the district or county attorney. Id. § 552.3215(e).
If this ruling requires or permits the governmental body to withhold all or some of the requested information, the requestor can appeal that decision by suing the governmental body. Id. § 552.321(a); Texas Department of Public Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App.-Austin 1992, no writ).
If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the attorney general prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of this ruling.
Ref: ID# 130279
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Robert J. Malli
1. You submit a document labeled as Exhibit C and explain that Exhibit C is not responsive to the request. Furthermore, you explain that Exhibit C was created subsequent to the OAG's receipt of the open records request. A document is not within the purview of the Public Information Act if, when a governmental body receives a request for it the document does not exist. Economic Opportunities Dev. Corp. v. Bustamante, 562 S.W.2d 266 (Tex. Civ. App.--San Antonio 1978, writ dism'd); Open Records Decision Nos. 452 (1986), 476 (1987). Thus, the OAG need not release Exhibit C.
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