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November 2, 2000

Ms. Tamara Armstrong
Assistant County Attorney
County of Travis
P.O. Box 1748
Austin, Texas 78767

OR2000-4279

Dear Ms. Armstrong:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Public Information Act (the "Act"), chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 140821.

The Travis County Sheriff's Office (the "sheriff") received a request for "any and all documents pertaining to" internal affairs case number 00-25. You have submitted for our review information that is responsive to the request. You assert that this information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101, 552.103, 552.108, and 552.130 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.(1)

Section 552.108 of the Government Code provides in part:

(a) Information held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime is excepted from [required public disclosure] if:

* * *

(2) it is information that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime only in relation to an investigation that did not result in conviction or deferred adjudication[.]

* * *

(c) This section does not except from the requirements of Section 552.021 information that is basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime.

Gov't Code 552.108 (emphasis added). You state that the "criminal portion of the investigation" was closed and that the charge was "not sustained." Based on this representation, we agree that you have demonstrated the applicability of section 552.108(a)(2) to much of the information at issue. We accordingly conclude, except as otherwise noted below, that the sheriff may withhold the submitted documents under section 552.108 of the Government Code.

We note that information normally found on the front page of an offense report is generally considered public. Houston Chronicle Publ'g Co. v. City of Houston, 531 S.W.2d 177 (Tex. Civ. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 1975), writ ref'd n.r.e. per curiam, 536 S.W.2d 559 (Tex. 1976); Open Records Decision No. 127 (1976). Thus, you must release the type of information that is considered to be front page offense report information, even if this information is not actually located on the front page of the submitted offense report. Gov't Code 552.108(c); see Houston Chronicle, 531 S.W.2d at 187.

We also note that some of the documents, on their face, pertain only to the sheriff's internal administrative investigation of employee misconduct. We do not believe that these documents, which we have marked with green flags, constitute information "that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime" as contemplated by section 552.108. See Morales v. Ellen, 840 S.W.2d 519, 526 (Tex. App.-El Paso 1992, writ denied)(statutory predecessor to section 552.108 did not apply to an investigation of sexual harassment which did not result in a criminal investigation). We conclude that the documents we have marked with green flags must be released in their entirety.

In summary, the sheriff may withhold the submitted documents, except that the sheriff must release in their entirety the documents we have marked with green flags, as well as the basic information pertaining to the criminal investigation.

Because we find section 552.108 to be dispositive, we do not address the section 552.101 or 552.130 assertions. 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,

Michael Garbarino
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

MG/pr

Ref: ID#140821

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Oscar Findeisen
508 Sage Boot Drive
Pflugerville, Texas 78660-4303
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. You have submitted no comments or arguments in support of the section 552.103 assertion, nor have you marked any of the information at issue as excepted from disclosure by section 552.103. See Gov't Code 552.301(e)(1)(A), (2). Accordingly, we do not address the section 552.103 assertion.
 

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