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February 16, 2000

Ms. Elaine S. Hengen
Assistant City Attorney
City of El Paso
2 Civic Center Plaza
El Paso, Texas 79901-1196

OR2000-0561

Dear Ms. Hengen:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 132307.

The City of El Paso (the "city") received a request for the complete report regarding a traffic accident which injured a juvenile pedestrian. You inform us that the grand jury declined to issue a bill of indictment in the case, so you have withdrawn your claimed section 552.108 exception. You continue to assert that the driver's license numbers, vehicle identification numbers, and license plate numbers are excepted from disclosure under section 552.130 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.130 of the Government Code provides:

(a) Information is excepted from [required public disclosure] if the information relates to:

(1) a motor vehicle operator's or driver's license or permit issued by an agency of this state;

(2) a motor vehicle title or registration issued by an agency of this state; or

(3) a personal identification document issued by an agency of this state or a local agency authorized to issue an identification document.

(b) Information described by Subsection (a) may be released only if, and in the manner, authorized by Chapter 730, Transportation Code.

We do not believe that subsection (b) authorizes the release of the information described in subsection (a) in this case. We have marked the information the city must withhold from disclosure based on section 552.130.

In addition, we note that a social security number is excepted from required public disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with 1990 amendments to the federal Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I), if it was obtained or is maintained by a governmental body pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990. See Open Records Decision No. 622 (1994). We have no basis for concluding that any of the social security numbers in the file are confidential under section 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I), and therefore excepted from public disclosure under section 552.101 on the basis of that federal provision. We caution, however, that section 552.353 of the Government Code imposes criminal penalties for the release of confidential information. Prior to releasing any social security number information, you should ensure that no such information was obtained or is maintained by the city pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990.

In summary, you must withhold the driver's license numbers, vehicle identification numbers, and license plate numbers under section 552.130. You must withhold the social security numbers if they were obtained or are maintained by the city pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990.

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,

Patricia Michels Anderson
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

PMA/jc

Ref: ID# 132307

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Robert White
7713 Nardo Goodman
El Paso, Texas 79912
(w/o enclosures)


 

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