|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
December 5, 2000
Mr. Ricardo Gonzalez
Dear Mr. Gonzalez:
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# 141839.
The City of Edinburg (the "city") received a request from the applicant for a peace officer position for the applicant's "complete applicant file." You indicate that you have released to the requestor the information responsive to the request, except for a one page "Report of Background Investigation" and a one page memorandum, both of which you have submitted for our review. You assert that the submitted information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.111 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
We note at the outset that some of the information contained in the submitted documents is governed by a provision outside the Act. The release of the information pertaining to polygraph results is governed by section 1703.306 of the Occupations Code which provides:
(a) A polygraph examiner, trainee, or employee of a polygraph examiner, or a person for whom a polygraph examination is conducted or an employee of the person, may not disclose information acquired from a polygraph examination to another person other than:
(1) the examinee or any other person specifically designated in writing by the examinee;
(2) the person that requested the examination;
(3) a member, or the member's agent, of a governmental agency that licenses a polygraph examiner or supervises or controls a polygraph examiner's activities;
(4) another polygraph examiner in private consultation; or
(5) any other person required by due process of law.
(b) The board or any other governmental agency that acquires information from a polygraph examination under this section shall maintain the confidentiality of the information.
Occ. Code § 1703.306. This provision prohibits the release of polygraph information to anyone other than those individuals listed in subsection (a). In this instance, pursuant to subsection 1703.306(a)(1) quoted above, the requestor is among those entitled to access to the polygraph information. We conclude, therefore, that section 1703.306 of the Occupations Code does not in this instance prohibit the release of the polygraph information.
Section 552.111 of the Act states in pertinent part that an "interagency or intraagency memorandum or letter that would not be available by law to a party in litigation with the agency" is excepted from required public disclosure. This section incorporates the common law deliberative process privilege which may apply to memoranda and letters, but only to the extent that they contain advice, opinion, or recommendation intended for use in the entity's policymaking process. Open Records Decision No. 615 at 5 (1993). Its purpose is "to protect from public disclosure advice and opinions on policy matters and to encourage frank and open discussion within the agency in connection with its decision-making processes." Austin v. City of San Antonio, 630 S.W.2d 391, 394 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 1982, writ ref'd n.r.e.) (emphasis added). However, an agency's policymaking functions do not encompass internal administrative or personnel matters, as disclosure of information relating to such matters will not inhibit free discussion among agency personnel as to policy issues. Open Records Decision No. 615 at 5-6 (1993). Upon review of the submitted records, we find the information at issue pertains to internal administrative or personnel matters of the city, not policymaking. Accordingly, we do not believe that any of the information at issue is excepted by section 552.111. In summary, the city must release the submitted documents to the requestor in their entirety.
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 Hadassah Schloss at 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# 141839
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Jesus Rodriguez
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US