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November 2, 2000

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

OR2000-4282

Dear Ms. Roll:

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# 141040.

The Texas Department of Human Services (the "department") received a request for all responses the department received to its request for offers regarding the EBT call center. You indicate that information responsive to the request has been released to the requestor, except for information submitted to the department by Renaissance Worldwide, Inc. ("Renaissance"), which you have submitted for our review. The department expresses no opinion on whether Renaissance's information is excepted from required public disclosure, but you state that the information may be excepted by section 552.110 of the Government Code.

You acknowledge that the department has not timely requested a decision of this office as required by section 552.301 of the Government Code, and that the information is therefore presumed subject to release absent a compelling reason to withhold the information. See Gov't Code 552.301, .302. You state that the section 552.110 assertion should nevertheless be considered because the section 552.302 presumption of openness may be overcome by a claim under section 552.110. We agree. See Open Records Decision No. 552 (1990).

Under section 552.305 of the Government Code, you have notified Renaissance of the request by a letter dated September 1, 2000. See Gov't Code 552.305 (permitting interested third party to submit to attorney general reasons why requested information should not be released); Open Records Decision No. 542 (1990) (determining that statutory predecessor to Gov't Code 552.305 permits governmental body to rely on interested third party to raise and explain applicability of exception in Act in certain circumstances).

Renaissance did not respond to the notice; therefore, we have no basis to conclude that their information is excepted from disclosure. See Gov't Code 552.110(b) (to prevent disclosure of commercial or financial information, party must show by specific factual or evidentiary material, not conclusory or generalized allegations, that it actually faces competition and that substantial competitive injury would likely result from disclosure); Open Records Decision Nos. 552 at 5 (1990) (party must establish prima facie case that information is trade secret), 542 at 3 (1990). The information must therefore be released to the requestor.

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# 141040

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Jerry Lozano
Project Manager
Sagem Morpho, Inc.
8701 Cross Park Drive
Suite 110
Austin, Texas 78754
(w/o enclosures)

Mr. Gene A. DeLucia
Renaissance Worldwide, Inc.
Government Solutions
1 Hampton Road
Suite 306
Exeter, New Hampshire 03833-4848
(w/o enclosures)


 

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