|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
October 22, 1999
Mr. Ed C. Jones
Dear Mr. Jones:
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# 128338.
Angelina County (the "county") received a request for fifteen categories of information in the possession of the Angelina County Sheriff's Department. You state that some of the requested information does not exist. You claim, however, that the submitted sample documents are excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101, 552.103, 552.108 and 552.111 of the Government Code.(1) We have considered the exceptions you claim and have reviewed the submitted sample information.
Initially, you assert that the responsive information may be withheld under section 552.108. Section 552.108, the "law enforcement exception," provides:
(a) [i]nformation held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime is excepted from [public disclosure] if: (1) release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation or prosecution of crime; (2) it is information that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime only in relation to an investigation that did not result in conviction or deferred adjudication; or (3) it is information that: (A) is prepared by an attorney representing the state in anticipation of or in the course of preparing for criminal litigation; or (B) reflects the mental impressions or legal reasoning of an attorney representing the state.
(b) An internal record or notation of a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that is maintained for internal use in matters relating to law enforcement or prosecution is excepted from [public disclosure] if: (1) release of the internal record or notation would interfere with law enforcement or prosecution; (2) the internal record or notation relates to law enforcement only in relation to an investigation that did not result in conviction or deferred adjudication; or (3) the internal record or notation: (A) is prepared by an attorney representing the state in anticipation of or in the course of preparing for criminal litigation; or (B) reflects the mental impressions or legal reasoning of an attorney representing the state.
(c) This section does not except from [public disclosure] information that is basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime.
Gov't Code § 552.108. Generally, a governmental body claiming an exception under section 552.108 must reasonably explain, if the information does not supply the explanation on its face, how and why the release of the requested information would interfere with law enforcement. See Gov't Code §§ 552.108(a)(1), (b)(1), .301(b)(1); see also Ex parte Pruitt, 551 S.W.2d 706 (Tex. 1977). Although you state that the complaint is being investigated, you do not indicate that the department is conducting a criminal investigation into this matter. See Morales v Ellen, 840 S.W.2d 519, 526 (Tex. App.--El Paso 1992, writ denied) (section 552.108 not applicable where no criminal investigation or prosecution of police officer resulted from investigation of allegation of sexual harassment); Open Records Decision No. 350 (1982) (predecessor provision of section 552.108 not applicable to IAD investigation file when no criminal charge against officer results from investigation of complaint against police officer). Consequently, you may not withhold the responsive information under section 552.108.
Next you contend that the submitted information may be withheld under litigation exception. Section 552.103(a) excepts from disclosure information relating to litigation to which the state or a political subdivision is or may be a party. The county has the burden of providing relevant facts and documents to show that the section 552.103(a) exception is applicable in a particular situation. The test for meeting this burden is a showing that (1) litigation is pending or reasonably anticipated, and (2) the information at issue is related to that litigation. University of Tex. Law Sch. v. Texas Legal Found., 958 S.W.2d 479, 481 (Tex. App.--Austin 1997, no pet.); Heard v. Houston Post Co., 684 S.W.2d 210, 212 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1984, writ ref'd n.r.e.); Open Records Decision No. 551 at 4 (1990). The county must meet both prongs of this test for information to be excepted under section 552.103(a).
The mere chance of litigation will not trigger section 552.103(a). Open Records Decision No. 452 at 4 (1986). To demonstrate that litigation is reasonably anticipated, the governmental body must furnish concrete evidence that litigation involving a specific matter is realistically contemplated and is more than mere conjecture. Id. Whether litigation is reasonably anticipated must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Open Records Decision No. 452 at 4 (1986). After reviewing your arguments, we conclude that you have not demonstrated that litigation is reasonably anticipated. Thus, you may not withhold the responsive information under section 552.103(a).
You also contend that the inmates addresses are protected from disclosure under the doctrine of common-law privacy. Information must be withheld under section 552.101 in conjunction with the common-law right to privacy if the information contains highly intimate or embarrassing facts about a person's private affairs such that its release would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person and if the information is of no legitimate concern to the public. Industrial Found. v. Texas Indus. Accident Bd ., 540 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977); Open Records Decision No. 611 at 1 (1992). This office has previously concluded that the home addresses of private citizens are not "intimate" information and, therefore, are not protected from disclosure. See Open Records Decision Nos. 478 (1987), 455 (1987), 254 (1980). Therefore, the county may not withhold the requested inmate addresses under section 552.101.
Finally, you state that the responsive information may be withheld under section 552.111. Section 552.111 excepts "an interagency or intraagency memorandum or letter that would not be available by law to a party in litigation with the agency." In Open Records Decision No. 615 (1993), this office reexamined the predecessor to the section 552.111 exception in light of the decision in Texas Department of Public Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408 (Tex. App.--Austin 1992, no writ), and held that section 552.111 excepts only those internal communications consisting of advice, recommendations, opinions, and other material reflecting the policymaking processes of the governmental body. We cannot determine from the face of the documents, nor have you explained, how the submitted information relates to the policymaking functions of the county or the Angelina County Sheriff's Department. Therefore, the county may not withhold the responsive information under section 552.111.
We note, however, that some of the submitted information may be confidential by law. 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 submitted documents are confidential under section 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I), and, therefore, excepted from public disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code on the basis of that federal provision. We caution, however, that section 552.353 of the Government Code 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 county pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990.
We also note that some of the submitted information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.130. Section 552.130, which governs the release and use of information obtained from motor vehicle records, provides in relevant part as follows:
(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[.]
Gov't Code § 552.130. Therefore, the county must withhold the submitted Texas drivers' license numbers pursuant to section 552.130.
We are resolving this matter with an 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 should not be relied on as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have any questions regarding this ruling, please contact our office.
June B. Harden
Ref: ID# 128338
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. R. Jeanette Parham
1. We assume that the "sample" records submitted to this office is truly representative of the requested records as a whole. See Open Records Decision Nos. 499 (1988), 497 (1988). This open records letter does not reach, and, therefore, does not authorize the withholding of, any other requested records to the extent that those records contain substantially different types of information than that submitted to this office.
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US