|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
March 26, 1999
Ms. Sara Fauls
Dear Ms. Fauls:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Open Records Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 124581.
Section 552.101 of the Government Code excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Section 261.201 of the Family Code reads in part as follows:
(a) The following information is confidential, is not subject to public release under Chapter 552, Government Code, and may be disclosed only for purposes consistent with this code and applicable federal or state law or under rules adopted by an investigating agency:
(1) a report of alleged or suspected abuse or neglect made under this chapter and the identity of the person making the report; and
(2) except as otherwise provided in this section, the files, reports, records, communications, audiotapes, videotapes, and working papers used or developed in an investigation under this chapter or in providing services as a result of an investigation.
We believe that the requested information consists of reports, records, and working papers used or developed in an investigation made under chapter 261 of the Family Code.(1)
Because you have not cited any specific rule that the investigating agency has adopted with regard to the release of this type of information, we assume that no such regulation exists. Given that assumption, the requested information is confidential pursuant to section 261.201 of the Family Code. See Open Records Decision No. 440 at 2 (1986) (construing predecessor statute). Accordingly, you must not release the requested information to the requestor.(2)
In light of our conclusion under section 552.101, we need not address the applicability of other exceptions, if any. We are resolving this matter with this informal letter ruling rather than with a published open records decision. This ruling is limited to the particular records at issue under the facts presented to us in this request and may not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have questions about this ruling, please contact our office.
Yours very truly,
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division
Ref.: ID# 124581
Encl: Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Doris Bearden
1. Some of the records at issue are medical records, access to which is governed by the Medical Practice Act (the "MPA"), article 4495b of Vernon's Texas Civil Statutes. Section 5.08 of the MPA provides:
Section 5.08(j)(1) provides for release of medical records upon the patient's written consent, provided that the consent specifies (1) the information to be covered by the release, (2) reasons or purposes for the release, and (3) the person to whom the information is to be released. Section 5.08(j)(3) also requires that any subsequent release of medical records be consistent with the purposes for which the governmental body obtained the records. Open Records Decision No. 565 at 7 (1990). Medical records may be released only as provided under the MPA. Open Records Decision No. 598 (1991).
2. We note that if the investigation has been referred to the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (the "department"), a parent who is a requestor may be entitled to access to the department's records. Section 261.201(f) of the Family Code provides that the department, upon request and subject to its own rules:
Fam. Code § 261.201(f).
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