|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
November 16, 2000
Judge John P. Thompson
Dear Judge Thompson:
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# 141107.
The Polk County Commissioner's Court (the "county") received a request for a copy of "the recent study of Polk County's Solid Waste Program." You claim that the information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.104 and 552.105 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Initially, we note that the submitted information is public information that is not excepted from required public disclosure under the Act. We specifically refer you to section 552.022 of the Government Code, which provides in pertinent part:
(a) Without limiting the amount or kind of information that is public information under this chapter, the following categories of information are public information and not excepted from required disclosure under this chapter unless they are expressly confidential under other law:
. . .
(1) a completed report, audit, evaluation, or investigation made of, for, or by a governmental body, except as provided by Section 552.108;
. . .
Gov't Code § 552.022(a)(1) (emphasis added). In the instant case, the submitted information falls within the scope of section 552.022(a)(1) as it is a completed report made for the county, a governmental body; thus, it must be released to the requestor in its entirety. With regard to the public release of the responsive information, you do not assert the applicability of any "other law" that makes the information confidential, nor do we find any provision of law that makes confidential any of the submitted information. We note that sections 552.104 and 552.105 of the Government Code are discretionary exceptions under the Act and thereby do not constitute "other law" that makes information confidential.(1) See, e.g., Open Records Decision Nos. 630 at 4 (1994) (governmental body may waive attorney-client privilege, section 552.107(1)); 592 at 8 (1991) (governmental body may waive section 552.104, information relating to competition or bidding); 549 at 6 (1990) (governmental body may waive informer's privilege); 522 at 4 (1989) (discretionary exceptions in general). See also Gov't Code § 552.007(a); Dallas Area Rapid Transit v. Dallas Morning News, 4 S.W.3d 469, 475, 476 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1999, no pet.) (governmental body may waive litigation exception, section 552.103). Therefore, the county must release the information at issue 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.
Ref: ID# 141107
Encl: Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Troy Leitschuh
1. Discretionary exceptions are intended to protect only the interests of the governmental body, as distinct from exceptions which are intended to protect information deemed confidential by law or the interests of third parties.
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