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October 20, 2000

Ms. Margaret A. Roll
Assistant General Counsel
Texas Department of Human Services
P.O. Box 149030
Austin, Texas 78714-9030

OR2000-4086

Dear Ms. Roll:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 141384.

The Texas Department of Human Services (the "department") received a request for information regarding an investigation by the department, including statements taken during the investigation and particular details of the investigation, and a copy of any voice recordings of the requestor's client. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108(a)(1) of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.108(a)(1) of the Government Code excepts from disclosure "[i]nformation held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime" if "release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime." This exception generally applies to records of a law-enforcement agency or prosecutor; however, in certain circumstances, an agency that is not a law-enforcement agency may claim section 552.108. See Open Records Decision No. 493 (1988). This office has determined that if an investigation by an administrative agency reveals possible criminal conduct that the agency intends to report or already has reported to the appropriate law-enforcement agency, section 552.108 will apply to the information gathered by the administrative agency if its release would interfere with law enforcement. Id. You assert that the submitted information relates to a pending investigation into a possible bribery offense. Furthermore, you state that "the department will be referring or already has referred the investigation to the Travis County District Attorney's office for review and possible prosecution." Therefore, we find that the requested information reveals possible criminal conduct that the department intends to or has already reported to a law enforcement agency, and release of the information would interfere with law enforcement. Consequently, you may withhold the requested information under section 552.108(a)(1) 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 Dep't of Pub. 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,

Nathan E. Bowden
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

NEB\er

Ref: ID# 141384

Encl: Submitted documents and audiotape

cc: Mr. Brad Beers
Beers & Associates
1415 Louisiana, Suite 3200
Houston, Texas 77002-7363
(w/o enclosures)


 

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