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January 25, 2000

Mr. Kenneth Dippel
Cowles & Thompson
901 Main Street, Suite 4000
Dallas, Texas 75202-3793

OR2000-0231

Dear Mr. Dippel:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 131591.

The Town of Addison (the "town"), which you represent, received a request for certain contracts entered by the town and a private company hired to do auditing work for the town, reports prepared by that private company regarding the services it was to perform, and various depositions of employees of the private company concerning litigation between the town and the company. You state that the town intends to release the requested contracts and report. However, you claim that the requested depositions are excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101 and 552.103 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim.

Section 552.301 of the Government Code dictates the procedure that a governmental body must follow if it wishes to ask the attorney general for a decision determining whether requested information falls within an exception to disclosure. Among other requirements, the governmental body, "no later than the 15th business day after the date of receiving the written request," must submit to the attorney general "a copy of the specific information requested, or submit representative samples of the information if a voluminous amount of information was requested" Gov't Code 552.301(e)(D). Otherwise, the requested information "is presumed to be subject to required public disclosure and must be released unless there is a compelling reason to withhold the information." Gov't Code 552.302.

In this case, you state that the town received the written request for information on November 11, 1999. As of the date of this letter, we have yet to receive a copy of the requested information. Therefore, as you have not offered, and we do not find a compelling reason to withhold the information, the requested records must be released to the extent that they do not contain information that is confidential by law. See Gov't Code 552.352 (the distribution of confidential information may result in criminal penalties).

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,

E. Joanna Fitzgerald
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

EJF\nc

Ref: ID# 131591

Encl: Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Ron clark
Wolfe, Clark, Henderson & Tidwell,L.L.P.
123 North Crockett Street, Suite 100
Sherman, Texas 75090
(w/o enclosures)


 

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