|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
July 12, 2000
Ms. Sandra M. Zimmerman
Dear Ms. Zimmerman:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 137050.
The City of Austin (the "city") received a request for six categories of information related to pending Solicitation No. KM99300021-A. You state that no records are responsive to items four or six of the request, and that a portion of the information responsive to item three is excepted from disclosure under section 552.104 of the Government Code. Therefore, we assume that you have provided the requestor with information responsive to items one, two, and five. As to item three, we have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Section 552.104 of the Government Code states that information "is excepted from [required public disclosure] if it is information that, if released, would give advantage to a competitor or bidder." The purpose of this exception is to protect the interests of a governmental body in competitive bidding situations. See Open Records Decision No. 592 (1991). This exception protects information from public disclosure if the governmental body demonstrates potential specific harm to its interests in a particular competitive situation. See Open Records Decision Nos. 593 at 2 (1991), 463 (1987), 453 at 3 (1986). A general allegation or a remote possibility of an advantage being gained is not enough to invoke the protection of section 552.104. Open Records Decision Nos. 541 at 4 (1990), 520 at 4 (1989). A general allegation of a remote possibility that some unknown "competitor" might gain some unspecified advantage by disclosure does not trigger section 552.104. Open Records Decision No. 463 at 2 (1987). On review of the arguments submitted by the city, we believe that the city has demonstrated that public release of the information at issue would cause specific harm to the city's interests in a particular competitive bidding situation. Therefore, the city may withhold under section 552.104 the information you have identified as protected from required disclosure.
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.
Patricia Michels Anderson
Ref: ID# 137050
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Calvin W. Stephens
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US