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November 7, 2000

Ms. Doreen L. Wheeler
Assistant General Counsel
Consumer Credit Commissioner
2601 North Lamar Boulevard
Austin, Texas 78705

OR2000-4337

Dear Ms. Wheeler:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 141075.

The Office of the Consumer Credit Commissioner (the "commissioner") received a request for 1) complaint files related to payday loans, sales-leaseback loans, cash back ad sales, catalog sales and other payday cash advance arrangements from August 1998 to August 2000 (or the most current records), including lending company information and 2) a list of not previously authorized Chapter 342 regulated lenders that have applied for authorization since April 2000. You state that you have released all but one document that is responsive to the request. You claim that the submitted document is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101 and 552.112 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." This section encompasses information protected by other statutes. You state that the submitted information is confidential pursuant to section 371.206 of the Finance Code. Section 371.206 provides that

[i]nformation obtained during an examination or inspection authorized by this subchapter [subchapter E of chapter 371 of the Finance Code] is confidential and privileged except for use by the commissioner or in a criminal investigation or prosecution.

Fin. Code 371.206. Subchapter E of chapter 371 of the Finance Code authorizes examinations of pawnbrokers and inquiries into pawnbrokers' transactions and records by the consumer credit commissioner at his discretion. Fin. Code 371.201. We conclude that the submitted document, which you describe as an investigation report, constitutes information made confidential under section 371.206 of the Finance Code. Accordingly, the commissioner must withhold the submitted document pursuant to section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 371.206 of the Finance Code. Because we are able to make a determination under section 552.101, we need not address your other claimed exception.

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,

Noelle C. Letteri
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

NCL/pr

Ref: ID# 141075

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Ms. Kathy Mitchell
Consumers Union
1300 Guadalupe
Suite 100
Austin, Texas 78701
(w/o enclosures)


 

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