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November 7, 2000

Ms. Amy F. Swann
General Counsel
Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists
333 Guadalupe, Suite 2-450
Austin, Texas 78701

OR2000-4344

Dear Ms. Swann:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Public Information Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 141018.

The State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (the "board") received a request for a copy of the complete professional file of a specified licensee. You state that, with the exception of the licensee's social security number contained within certain documents, all the requested information has been provided to the requestor. You claim that the social security number is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 51.251 of the Occupations Code. We have considered the exception 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 contend that the social security number is made confidential by section 51.251 of the Occupations Code. A note following section 51.251 of the Occupations Code provides the following:

[t]he social security number of an applicant for or holder of a license, certificate of registration, or other legal authorization issued by a licensing agency to practice in a specified occupation or profession that is provided to the licensing agency is confidential and is not subject to disclosure under the open records law.

Occupations Code 51.251. You inform us that the board issues licenses to practice psychology in accordance with Chapter 501 of the Occupations Code. Therefore, an applicant's or licensee's social security number, compiled during the licensing process, must be withheld under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 51.251 of the Occupations Code.

Regarding future requests that include social security numbers provided to the board by applicants and licensees, you may rely on this open records letter to withhold any requested social security numbers. The board need not seek a decision from this office as to future requests for this information.

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,

Jennifer Bialek
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JHB/

Ref: ID# 141018

Encl: Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Jon Michael Grant
2707 South 5th Street
Austin, Texas 78704
(w/o enclosures)


 

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