Office of the ATTORNEY GENERAL
December 4, 2002
Mr. John S. Schneider, Jr.
Dear Mr. Schneider:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 173117.
The City of Pasadena Fire Department (the "department") received a request for five categories of information related to an accident involving the requestor's client and a department vehicle. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.103 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Included among the documents you seek to withhold is an accident report form that appears to have been completed pursuant to chapter 550 of the Transportation Code. See Transp. Code § 550.064 (officer's accident report). Section 550.065(b) of the Transportation Code states that except as provided by subsection (c), accident reports are privileged and confidential. Section 550.065(c)(4) provides for the release of accident reports to a person who provides two of the following three pieces of information: (1) date of the accident; (2) name of any person involved in the accident; and (3) specific location of the accident. Transp. Code § 550.065(c)(4). Under this provision, the Department of Public Safety or another governmental entity is required to release a copy of an accident report to a person who provides the agency with two or more pieces of information specified by the statute. Id. In the situation at hand, the requestor has provided the department with the date of the accident and the name of a person involved in the accident. Thus, you are required to release the accident report under section 550.065 of the Transportation Code.
We next note that the submitted records constitute information that is subject to section 552.022. Section 552.022(a) enumerates categories of information that are public information and not excepted from required disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code unless they are expressly confidential under other law. The information that you submitted to us for review consists of completed reports or investigations, which falls into one of the categories of information made expressly public by section 552.022. See Gov't Code section 522.022(a)(1). Section 552.022(a)(1) states that a completed report, audit, evaluation, or investigation made of, for, or by a governmental body is expressly public unless it is excepted under section 552.108 of the Government Code or is expressly confidential under other law. You do not argue that section 552.108 is applicable to the information at issue. You contend that section 552.103 of the Government Code excepts this information from public disclosure. However, section 552.103 is a discretionary exception to disclosure that protects the governmental body's interests and is therefore not other law that makes information expressly confidential for purposes of section 552.022(a). See Dallas Area Rapid Transit v. Dallas Morning News, 4 S.W.3d 469 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1999, no pet.) (governmental body may waive section 552.103); Open Records Decision No. 522 at 4 (1989) (discretionary exceptions in general). Thus, none of the submitted information may be withheld from disclosure under section 552.103 of the Government Code.
We note, however, that the submitted documents contain motor vehicle information that is excepted from public disclosure under section 552.130 of the Government Code. Section 552.130 provides in relevant part:
(a) Information is excepted from the requirement of Section 552.021 if the information relates to:
(1) a motor vehicle operator's or driver's license or permit issued by an agency of this state; [or]
(2) a motor vehicle title or registration issued by an agency of this state[.]
We have marked the Texas driver's license numbers that must be withheld under section 552.130.
We also note that section 552.117 of the Government Code may be applicable to some of the submitted information. Section 552.117 excepts from disclosure the home addresses and telephone numbers, social security numbers, and family member information of current or former officials or employees of a governmental body who request that this information be kept confidential under section 552.024. Whether a particular piece of information is protected by section 552.117 must be determined at the time the request for it is made. See Open Records Decision No. 530 at 5 (1989). Therefore, the department may only withhold information under section 552.117 on behalf of current or former officials or employees who made a request for confidentiality under section 552.024 prior to the date on which the request for this information was made. For those employees who timely elected to keep their personal information confidential, the department must withhold the employees' home addresses and telephone numbers, and social security numbers. The department may not withhold this information under section 552.117 for those employees who did not make a timely election to keep the information confidential.
The department must also withhold some of the submitted information under section 773.091 of the Health and Safety Code.(1) Section 773.091 provides:
(b) Records of the identity, evaluation, or treatment of a patient by emergency medical services ["EMS"] personnel or by a physician providing medical supervision that are created by the emergency medical services personnel or physician or maintained by an emergency medical services provider are confidential and privileged and may not be disclosed except as provided by this chapter.
This confidentiality "does not extend to information regarding the presence, nature of injury or illness, age, sex, occupation, and city of residence of a patient who is receiving emergency medical services." Id. § 773.091(g). It does not appear that any of the exceptions to confidentiality set forth in section 773.092 of the Health and Safety Code apply in this instance. Accordingly, the department must withhold the EMS records that we have marked under section 552.101 of the Government Code, except for information required to be released under section 773.091(g).
We also observe that the telephone numbers and addresses of the 9-1-1 callers contained in the submitted records may be protected from disclosure by section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with chapter 772 of the Health and Safety Code. In Open Records Decision No. 649 (1996), which interpreted section 772.318 of the Health and Safety Code, we examined several confidentiality provisions in chapter 772 of the Health and Safety Code. To the extent that portions of the information here involve an emergency 9-1-1 district established in accordance with chapter 772 of the Health and Safety Code, which authorizes the development of local emergency communications districts, the information may be confidential under chapter 772. Sections 772.118, 772.218, and 772.318 of the Health and Safety Code make confidential the originating telephone numbers and addresses of 9-1-1 callers furnished by a service supplier. See Open Records Decision No. 649 (1996). Section 772.118 applies to emergency communication districts for counties with a population over two million. Section 772.218 applies to emergency communication districts for counties with a population over 860,000. Section 772.318 applies to emergency communication districts for counties with a population over 20,000. Subchapter E, which applies to counties with populations over 1.5 million, does not contain a confidentiality provision regarding 9-1-1 telephone numbers and addresses. See Health & Safety Code §§772.401, et seq. To the extent the addresses and telephone numbers contained in the submitted records are originating addresses and telephone numbers of 9-1-1 callers and were supplied by a 9-1-1 service supplier to an emergency communication district that is subject to section 772.118, 772.218, or 772.318 of the Health and Safety Code, the telephone numbers and addresses must be withheld from disclosure under section 552.101 as information deemed confidential by statute. However, if these telephone numbers and addresses do not reflect the origin of 9-1-1 calls or were not provided by a 9-1-1 service supplier to an emergency communication district subject to section 772.118, 772.218, or 772.318, the telephone numbers and addresses must be released.
Finally, we note that the submitted information contains social security numbers, which may be withheld in some circumstances under section 552.101 of the Government Code. A social security number or "related record" may be excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 in conjunction with the 1990 amendments to the federal Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I). See Open Records Decision No. 622 (1994). These amendments make confidential social security numbers and related records that are obtained and maintained by a state agency or political subdivision of the state pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990. See id. We have no basis for concluding that any of the social security numbers in the file are confidential under section 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I), and therefore excepted from public disclosure under section 552.101 on the basis of that federal provision. We caution, however, that section 552.352 of the Public Information Act imposes criminal penalties for the release of confidential information. Prior to releasing any social security number information, you should ensure that no such information was obtained or is maintained by the department pursuant to any provision of law, enacted on or after October 1, 1990.
In summary, the accident report must be released under section 550.065 of the Transportation Code. Texas driver's license numbers must be withheld under section 552.130. The department must withhold under section 552.117 home addresses, home telephone numbers, and social security numbers of those employees who made a timely election under section 552.024. The department must withhold the EMS records that we have marked under section 552.101, except for information required to be released under section 773.091(g). To the extent the addresses and telephone numbers contained in the submitted records are originating addresses and telephone numbers of 9-1-1 callers and were supplied by a 9-1-1 service supplier to an emergency communication district that is subject to section 772.118, 772.218, or 772.318 of the Health and Safety Code, the telephone numbers and addresses must be withheld from disclosure under section 552.101 as information deemed confidential by statute. Social security numbers may be confidential under federal law. The remaining submitted information must be released 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 Hadassah Schloss at the Texas Building and Procurement 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. We note that a third party may challenge this ruling by filing suit seeking to withhold information from a requestor. Gov't
Code § 552.325. 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.
c: Mr. Clyde J. "Jay" Jackson
1. 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 protected by other statutes.
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