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February 24, 2000

Mr. Miles K. Risley
Legal Department
City of Victoria
P.O. Box 1758
Victoria, Texas 77902-1758

OR2000-0668

Dear Mr. Risley:

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# 132440.

The City of Victoria (the "city") received a request for "copies of the other vendors' proposals, the evaluation results (grading) for all of the proposals and the price proposed by the other vendors." You assert that release of the responsive information obtained from Syn-Tech Systems, Inc. (the "company") implicates its proprietary interests. You claim that the information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101 and 552.110 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Based upon the arguments and the document you submitted, we conclude that you have not established the applicability of section 552.101 to the submitted information. Nor does the information appear on its face to be subject to section 552.101. Therefore, you may not withhold the information from the requestor based upon section 552.101.

Section 552.305(d) requires the city to notify the company of the request for an attorney general decision. Notice under subsection 552.305(d) must be in writing and sent within a reasonable time not later than the 10th business day after receipt of the request for information and include:

(A) a copy of the written request for the information, if any, received by the governmental body; and

(B) a statement, in the form prescribed by the attorney general, that the person is entitled to submit in writing to the attorney general within a reasonable time not later than the 10th business day after the date the person receives the notice:

(i) each reason the person has as to why the information should be withheld; and

(ii) a letter, memorandum, or brief in support of that reason.

You state that you have notified the company about this request. See Gov't Code 552.305 (permitting interested third party to submit to attorney general reasons why requested information should not be released); Open Records Decision No. 542 (1990) (determining that statutory predecessor to Gov't Code 552.305 permits governmental body to rely on interested third party to raise and explain applicability of exception in Public Information Act in certain circumstances). We have no information about whether or not the notification you sent the company complies with the requirements of section 552.305.

Section 552.110 protects: (1) trade secrets, and (2) commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential by statute or judicial decision. The Texas Supreme Court has adopted the definition of trade secret from section 757 of the Restatement of Torts. Hyde Corp. v. Huffines, 314 S.W.2d 763 (Tex.), cert. denied, 358 U.S. 898 (1958); see also Open Records Decision No. 552 at 2 (1990). In determining whether particular information constitutes a trade secret, this office considers the Restatement's definition of trade secret as well as the Restatement's list of six trade secret factors.(1) Id. This office has held that if a governmental body takes no position with regard to the application of the trade secret branch of section 552.110 to requested information, we must accept a private person's claim for exception as valid under that branch if that person establishes a prima facie case for exception and no argument is submitted that rebuts the claim as a matter of law. Open Records Decision No. 552 at 5-6 (1990).

As noted above, section 552.110 protects both trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential by statute or judicial decision. The commercial or financial branch of section 552.110 requires the business enterprise whose information is at issue to make a specific factual or evidentiary showing, not conclusory or generalized allegations, that substantial competitive injury would result from disclosure. See Open Records Decision No. 661 (1999).

In the instant case, the company has not submitted to this office its reasons explaining why the requested information should not be released. Therefore, we have no basis to conclude that the responsive information is excepted from disclosure. See Gov't Code 552.110(b) (to prevent disclosure of commercial or financial information, party must show by specific factual or evidentiary material, not conclusory or generalized allegations, that it actually faces competition and that substantial competitive injury would likely result from disclosure); Open Records Decision Nos. 552 at 5 (1990) (party must establish prima facie case that information is trade secret), 542 at 3 (1990). Thus, the city must release the requested information to the requestor.

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,

Amanda Crawford
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

AEC/nc

Ref: ID# 132440

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Ms. Kay Turner
MegaTronics International Corporation
8833 Tradeway
San Antonio, Texas 78217
(w/o enclosures)

Mr. Frank McGoogan
Director of Marketing
Fuelmaster/Syn-Tech Systems, Inc.
P.O. Box 5258
Tallahassee, Florida 32314


 

Footnotes

1. The six factors that the Restatement gives as indicia of whether information constitutes a trade secret are: (1) the extent to which the information is known outside of [the company]; (2) the extent to which it is known by employees and others involved in [the company's] business; (3) the extent of measures taken by [the company] to guard the secrecy of the information; (4) the value of the information to [the company] and [its] competitors; (5) the amount of effort or money expended by [the company] in developing the information; (6) the ease or difficulty with which the information could be properly acquired or duplicated by others. Restatement of Torts 757 cmt. b (1939); see also Open Records Decision Nos. 319 at 2 (1982), 306 at 2 (1982), 255 at 2 (1980).
 

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