|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
September 20, 2000
Mr. Kevin McGraw
Dear Mr. Mcgraw:
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# 139407.
The City of Waco (the "city") received three requests for information relating to the city's landfill and its manager Wayne Johnson. Specifically, the requestor asks for the following information:
Any lawsuits, complaints or other legal actions by landfill manager Wayne Johnson against the city of Waco.
Reports by Wayne Johnson to city management concerning the condition of the Waco landfill, any time between January and July 2000.
Correspondence between landfill manager Wayne Johnson and his superiors, from July 1, 1999, to July 10, 2000. (Including e-mail)
(Footnote omitted). You state that you have released a portion of the requested information to the requestor. You claim, however, that the submitted information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.103 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted representative sample of information.(1)
Section 552.103(a), the "litigation exception," excepts from disclosure information relating to litigation to which the state is or may be a party. A governmental body has the burden of providing relevant facts and documents to show that the section 552.103(a) exception is applicable in a particular situation. The test for meeting this burden is a showing that (1) litigation is pending or reasonably anticipated, and (2) the information at issue is related to that litigation. See University of Tex. Law Sch. v. Texas Legal Found., 958 S.W.2d 479 (Tex. App.--Austin, 1997, no pet.); Heard v. Houston Post Co., 684 S.W.2d 210 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1984, writ ref'd n.r.e.); Open Records Decision No. 551 at 4 (1990). The city must meet both prongs of this test for the information to be excepted under section 552.103(a).
Whether litigation is reasonably anticipated must be determined on a case-by-case basis. See Open Records Decision No. 452 at 4 (1986). To establish that litigation is reasonably anticipated, a governmental body must provide this office "concrete evidence showing that the claim that litigation may ensue is more than mere conjecture." Open Records Decision No. 452 at 4 (1986).
You inform this office that the city has received a Notice of Charge of Discrimination from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") which states that Mr. Johnson has filed a charge of retaliation and employment discrimination against the city. You have provided a copy of the notice for our review. This office has stated that a pending EEOC complaint indicates that litigation is reasonably anticipated. See Open Records Decision Nos. 386 at 2 (1983), 336 at 1 (1982). You have also submitted a copy of an employee grievance submitted to the city by Mr. Johnson in which Mr. Johnson sets forth a complaint regarding the termination of his employment with the city.
Based on your arguments and the information before us, we conclude that you have shown that litigation is reasonably anticipated. Furthermore, we find that the requested information relates to the anticipated litigation. Therefore, you may withhold a portion of the requested information pursuant to section 552.103(a). We note, however, that once information has been obtained by all parties to the litigation through discovery or otherwise, no section 552.103(a) interest exists with respect to that information and such information must be disclosed. See Open Records Decision Nos. 349 (1982), 320 (1982). Thus, information that has either been obtained from or provided to the opposing party in the anticipated litigation is not excepted from disclosure under section 552.103(a) and must be disclosed. Therefore, you must release to the requestor all documents to which Mr. Johnson has already had access. For your reference, we have marked the documents that must be released to the requestor. In addition, the applicability of section 552.103(a) ends once the litigation has concluded. See Attorney General Opinion MW-575 (1982); Open Records Decision No. 350 (1982).
Section 552.103 does not protect from disclosure information subject to mandatory public release pursuant to section 552.022 of the Government Code. Section 552.022 provides as follows:
(a) Without limiting the amount or kind of information that is public information under this chapter, the following categories of information are public information and not excepted from required disclosure under this chapter unless they are expressly confidential under other law:
(3) information in an account, voucher, or contract relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds by a governmental body; [and]
(15) information regarded as open to the public under an agency's policies[.]
Section 552.103 is not other law that makes these types of information confidential. See Dallas Area Rapid Transit v. Dallas Morning News, 4 S.W.3d 469, 475-76 (Tex. App.--Dallas 1999, no pet.) (litigation exception discretionary; governmental body may waive section 552.103 exception). Accordingly, we have marked the information which must be disclosed to the requestor pursuant to section 552.022.
Government Code section 552.117(1) excepts from disclosure the home addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers, and family information of current or former officials or employees of a governmental body who request that this information be kept confidential under section 552.024. Therefore, section 552.117 allows you to withhold this information if the individual requested that this information be kept confidential under section 552.024. See Open Records Decision Nos. 622 (1994), 455 (1987). You may not, however, withhold this information if the individual made the request for confidentiality under section 552.024 after this request for information was made. Whether a particular piece of information is public must be determined at the time the request for it is made. See Open Records Decision No. 530 at 5 (1989). For your reference, we have marked the 552.117 information.
Subsection 552.130(a)(1) of the Government Code excepts from public disclosure information relating to a driver's license issued by an agency of this state. Therefore, you must withhold the driver's license information under section 552.130.
In summary, a portion of the information may be withheld pursuant to section 552.103(a). The opposing party to the litigation has had access to a portion of the submitted documents; except for information which must be redacted pursuant to section 552.117, these documents must be released to the requestor. Driver's license information must be withheld. A portion of the documents are public information pursuant to section 552.022 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).
Please remember that under the Act the release of information triggers certain procedures for costs and charges to the requestor. If records are released in compliance with this ruling, be sure that all charges for the information are at or below the legal amounts. Questions or complaints about over-charging must be directed to the General Services Commission at 512/475-2497.
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.
Julie Reagan Watson
Ref: ID# 139407
Encl. Marked documents
cc: Mr. J. B. Smith
1. 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.
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