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October 17, 2000

Ms. Lisa Aguilar
Assistant City Attorney
City of Corpus Christi
P. O. Box 9277
Corpus Christi, Texas 78469-9277

OR2000-4027

Dear Ms. Aguilar:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 140196.

The City of Corpus Christi (the "city") received a request for all documents that relate to possible neighborhood buyouts around Refinery Row. You will release most of the requested information but claim that the remaining requested information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.107 and 552.111 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.107(1) of the Government Code excepts information that an attorney cannot disclose because of a duty to his client under the Texas Rules of Civil Evidence, the Texas Rules of Criminal Evidence, or the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. In Open Records Decision No. 574 (1990), this office concluded that section 552.107 excepts from public disclosure only "privileged information," that is, information that reflects either confidential communications from the client to the attorney or the attorney's legal advice or opinions; it does not apply to all client information held by a governmental body's attorney. Open Records Decision No. 574 at 5 (1990). When communications from attorney to client do not reveal the client's communications to the attorney, section 552.107(1) protects them only to the extent that such communications reveal the attorney's legal opinion or advice. Open Records Decision No. 574 at 3 (1990). In addition, basically factual communications from attorney to client, or between attorneys representing the client, are not protected. Id.

At issue here is a draft of a memorandum prepared by the city attorney. You tell us that it was used to provide advice to the city. We have reviewed the submitted document and conclude that it constitutes attorney-client communications consisting of legal advice and opinion; therefore, the city may withhold the entire document under section 552.107(1). Because we find section 552.107 to be dispositive, we will not address your section 552.111 claim.

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.

Sincerely,

Patricia Michels Anderson
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

PMA/pr

Ref: ID#140196

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. John Tedesco
San Antonio Express News
210 South Carancahua, Suite 604
Corpus Christi, Texas 78401
(w/o enclosures)


 

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