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July 19, 2000

Mr. Michael C. Hayes
Olson & Olson
Attorneys at Law
333 Clay Street, Suite 3485
Houston, Texas 77002

OR2000-2716

Dear Mr. Hayes:

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# 137189.

The City of Friendswood (the "city"), which you represent, received a request for information relating to three individuals, whom you identify as animal control officers. You claim that information that you have determined to be responsive to the request is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and have reviewed the information you submitted.

Section 552.108 of the Government Code, the "law enforcement exception," excepts from required public disclosure "[a]n internal record or notation of a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that is maintained for internal use in matters relating to law enforcement or prosecution . . . if . . . release of the internal record or notation would interfere with law enforcement or prosecution[.]" Gov't Code 552.108(b)(1). A governmental body that claims an exception to disclosure under section 552.108 must sufficiently explain, if the responsive information does not do so on its face, how and why section 552.108 is applicable. See Ex parte Pruitt, 551 S.W.2d 706 (Tex. 1977); Open Records Decision No. 434 at 2-3 (1986); see also Open Records Decision No. 531 at 2 (1989) (holding that predecessor statute protected information held by a law enforcement agency whose release would unduly interfere with law enforcement and crime prevention).

You inform us that the city's Animal Control Unit is included within the Staff Services Division of the Police Department. You describe the information that the city seeks to withhold as a proposed schedule that indicates the specific days and hours during which the city's animal control officers will be enforcing its animal control laws. In support of your claim that the schedule is protected from disclosure by section 552.108(b), you contend:

[T]he schedule comprises part of the City's law enforcement procedure with respect to animal control laws. . . . [P]ublic disclosure of specific information as to when officers will enforce these laws will provide the public, particularly potential violators, with information by which they might avoid detection or prosecution. . . . [K]nowledge of such information might be used to disrupt or interfere with the employees' enforcement of these laws.

On previous occasions, this office has concluded that section 552.108 protects certain kinds of information whose disclosure might compromise the security or operations of a law enforcement agency. See, e.g., Open Records Decision Nos. 531 (1989) (detailed guidelines regarding a police department's use of force policy excepted from disclosure), 508 (1988) (information relating to future transfers of prisoners could be protected), 413 (1984) (sketch showing security measures for forthcoming execution protected), 211 (1978) (information relating to undercover narcotics investigations), 143 (1976) (log revealing use of electronic eavesdropping equipment), 127 (1976) (list of persons who entered or left Governor's Mansion). Having considered your arguments and reviewed the responsive information, we are not persuaded that public disclosure of the animal control officers' proposed duty schedule would have any adverse effect on the city's ability to enforce its animal control laws. Accordingly, we conclude that the requested information is not excepted from disclosure under section 552.108 of the Government Code and must be released.

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,

James W. Morris, III
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JWM/ljp

Ref: ID# 137189

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Jeff Branscome
308 Woodstream Circle
Friendswood, Texas 77546
(w/o enclosures)


 

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