|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
August 21, 2000
Ms. Janice Marie Wilson
Dear Ms. Wilson:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 138451.
The Texas Department of Transportation (the "department") received a request for "copies of the applications and the interviews with the interview answer key for all the individuals" who applied for a specified job posting. You explain that the department "will produce those questions and answers relating to qualifications and experience and will produce other materials responsive to the request[.]" You seek to withhold from the requestor "those questions and answers that are general in nature and can be reused in the future." You have provided for our review a representative sample of the responsive information that you seek to withhold from the requestor.(1) You assert that this information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.122 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Section 552.122 of the Government Code excepts from required public disclosure "a test item developed by a . . . governmental body[.]" Gov't Code § 552.122(b). This office has stated that a "test item" in section 552.122 includes "any standard means by which an individual's or group's knowledge or ability in a particular area is evaluated," but does not encompass evaluations of an employee's overall job performance or suitability. Open Records Decision No. 626 at 6 (1994). When answers to test questions might reveal the questions themselves, the answers may be withheld under section 552.122. Id. at 8; Attorney General Opinion JM-640 at 3 (1987). The question of whether specific information falls within the ambit of section 552.122(b) must be determined on a case-by-case basis. ORD 626 at 6. Traditionally, this office has applied section 552.122 where release of "test items" might compromise the effectiveness of further examinations. Id. at 4-5; see also Open Records Decision No. 118 (1976).
You seek to withhold certain questions and recommended and actual responses contained in the submitted documents, and we understand your comments to indicate that the same questions and model responses are used repetitively. Further, it appears that the department's employment selection process includes structured interviews in which all interviewees are asked the same specific questions. Our review of the information at issue indicates that these questions are intended to test the job applicant's technical expertise. Based on your representations and our review of the submitted information, we believe that the standardized questions, recommended responses, and actual answers at issue are excepted from disclosure in this instance. The department may withhold this information from the requestor pursuant to section 552.122 of the Government Code.
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.
Ref: ID# 138451
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Wallace Rennels
1. In reaching our conclusion here, we assume that the representative sample of records submitted to this office is truly representative of the requested records as a whole. See Open Records Decision Nos. 499 (1988); 497 (1988). This open records letter does not reach, and therefore does not authorize the withholding of, any other requested records to the extent that those records contain substantially different types of information than that submitted to this office.
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US