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November 28, 2000

Ms. Cheryl T. Mehl
Schwartz & Eichelbaum, P.C.
800 Brazos Street, Suite 870
Austin, Texas 78701

OR2000-4553

Dear Ms. Mehl:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 141599.

The New Home Independent School District (the "district"), which you represent, received a written request for the personnel file of the district's high school principal. You state that most of the requested information has been released to the requestor. You contend, however, that certain documents contained in the personnel file are excepted from public disclosure pursuant to sections 552.101 and 552.102(b) of the Government Code.

Section 552.101 of the Government Code excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." This section encompasses information made confidential by other statutes. Section 21.355 of the Education Code provides that "[a]ny document evaluating the performance of a teacher or administrator is confidential." This office has interpreted this section to apply to any document that evaluates, as that term is commonly understood, the performance of a teacher or administrator. Open Records Decision No. 643 (1996). In that opinion, this office also concluded that an "administrator" is someone who is required to hold and does hold a certificate or permit required under chapter 21 of the Education Code and is performing the functions of an administrator at the time of his or her evaluation. Id. at 4. Assuming the school principal in question held such a certificate or permit at the time of the evaluations at issue, we conclude that the performance evaluation must be withheld from the public in its entirety pursuant to section 21.355 of the Education Code.

You next contend that the principal's college transcripts are excepted from public disclosure pursuant to section 552.102(b) of the Government Code, except those portions of the transcripts that reveal the principal's name, degrees obtained, and courses taken. Section 552.102(b) of the Government Code protects from public disclosure:

a transcript from an institution of higher education maintained in the personnel file of a professional public school employee, except that this section does not exempt from disclosure the degree obtained or the curriculum on a transcript in the personnel file of the employee.

Accordingly, we conclude that the district may release only those portions of the transcripts that reveal the employee's name, degree obtained, and "courses taken." We therefore agree that all of the information you have highlighted on the college transcript must be withheld pursuant to section 552.102(b).

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,

Yen-Ha Le
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

YHL/RWP/seg

Ref: ID# 141599

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Ms. Linda L. Chesley
Route 4, Box 27
Tahoka, Texas 79373
(w/o enclosures)


 

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