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August 8, 2000

Ms. Paula Jones
General Counsel
Employees Retirement System of Texas
P. O. Box 13207
Austin, Texas 78711-3207

OR2000-2997

Dear Ms. Jones:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 138307.

The Employees Retirement System of Texas (the "ERS") received a request for information regarding a named individual. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.101 of the Government Code protects "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Section 552.101 encompasses confidentiality provisions such as section 815.503 of the Government Code.

Section 815.503 of the Government code provides that

[r]ecords of members and annuitants under retirement plans administered by the retirement system that are in the custody of the system or of an administrator, carrier, or other governmental agency acting in cooperation with or on behalf of the retirement system are confidential and not subject to public disclosure and are exempt from the public access provisions of Chapter 552, except as otherwise provided by this chapter.

Gov't Code 815.503; see also 811.001(15) (defining "retirement system" as the ERS).

You state that Attachments B and C are records of an ERS member or annuitant under retirement plans administered by the ERS. You state that this information is made confidential by section 815.503 of the Government Code. You also assert that these records have not been made public pursuant to section 815.503(c). After reviewing your arguments and Attachments B and C, we find that this information is the information of an ERS member or annuitant under retirement plans administered by the ERS. Accordingly, these records are confidential pursuant to section 552.101 in conjunction with section 815.503 of the Government Code. Additionally, the requestor does not appear to be within the class of persons to whom the ERS may release this confidential information under section 815.503(b). Therefore, the ERS must not release Attachments B and C to the requestor.

Because section 552.101 in conjunction with section 815.503 of the Government Code are dispositive, we need not address your other arguments to except the information from public 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.

Sincerely,

Noelle C. Letteri
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

NCL/pr

Ref: ID# 138307

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Russell Gold
San Antonio Express-News
Capital Bureau
1003 Congress Avenue, Suite 430
Austin, Texas 78701
(w/o enclosures)


 

POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US
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