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January 24, 2000

Ms. Janice Marie Wilson
Associate General Counsel
Texas Department of Transportation
125 E. 11th Street
Austin, Texas 78701-2483

OR2000-0221

Dear Ms. Wilson:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Public Information Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID#131426.

The Texas Department of Transportation (the "department") received two written requests for portions of the pre-certification questionnaire submitted to the department by ESC Polytech Consultants, Inc. ("ESC"). You do not argue that the requested information is excepted from required public disclosure, but rather have requested a decision from this office pursuant to section 552.305 of Government Code, which authorizes parties with a privacy or proprietary interest in requested information to submit arguments to this office as to why the information is excepted from required public disclosure.

ESC has submitted to this office arguments for withholding the requested information, and contends that the information at issue is excepted from public disclosure pursuant to sections 552.110 and 552.131 of the Government Code. However, ESC's arguments for non-disclosure do not explain how either section 552.110 or 552.131 apply to the requested information. Consequently, this office has no basis on which to conclude that the information at issue comes under the protection of the raised exceptions. Accordingly, we conclude that the department must release the requested information in its entirety.

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..

Sincerely,

Michael J. Burns
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

MJB/RWP/nc

Ref.: ID# 131426

cc: Mr. John R. Speed
1205 Tetbury Lane
Austin, Texas 77848
(w/o enclosures)

Mr. Jimmy H. Smith, Ph.D., P.E.
Interim Executive Director
Texas Board of Professional Engineers
P.O. Drawer 18329
Austin, Texas 78760-8329
(w/o enclosures)

Mr. Danny R. Perkins
Principal
ESC Polytech Consultants, Inc.
6880 Telephone Road, Suite 202
Houston, Texas 77061-2815
(w/o enclosures)


 

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