November 2, 1999
Mr. Steven D. Monté
Assistant City Attorney
Criminal Law and Police Division
2014 Main Street, Room 206
Dallas, Texas 75201
Dear Mr. Monté:
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# 128568.
The City of Dallas (the "city") received a request for various documents relating to the investigation of a specific assistant city attorney. Although you state that most of the requested information has been released, you claim that the submitted documents are excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101 and 552.108 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and have reviewed the submitted information.
You first claim that the some of the submitted documents are personal financial records that must be withheld under common-law privacy. Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Section 552.101 encompasses common-law privacy and excepts from disclosure private facts about an individual. Industrial Found. v. Texas Indus. Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977). Information must be withheld from the public when (1) it is highly intimate and embarrassing such that its release would be highly objectionable to a person of ordinary sensibilities, and (2) there is no legitimate public interest in its disclosure. Id. at 685; Open Records Decision No. 611 at 1 (1992). We have reviewed the submitted financial records and agree that these documents are protected from public disclosure under the doctrine of common-law privacy. Open Records Decision Nos. 600 (1992), 545 (1990) (personal financial information not relating to financial transaction between individual and governmental body is protected by common-law privacy).
We note, however, that the submitted financial records pertain not only to the assistant city attorney under investigation, but to her husband, the requestor. Section 552.023 gives a person or a person's authorized representative a special right of access, beyond the right of the general public, to information held by a governmental body that relates to the person and that is protected from disclosure by laws intended to protect that person's privacy interest. Therefore, section 552.023 provides the requestor a special right of access to the submitted financial records.
You also claim that the highlighted portions of the submitted investigative documents are excepted from disclosure under section 552.108. Section 552.108, the "law enforcement exception," provides in relevant part as follows:
(a) [i]nformation held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime is excepted from the requirements of 552.021 if: (1) release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation or prosecution of crime; [or] (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[.]
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). After reviewing your arguments and the submitted documents, we conclude that you have shown the applicability of section 552.108 to portions of the investigative documents. See Houston Chronicle Publ'g Co. v. City of Houston, 531 S.W.2d 177 (Tex. Civ. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 1975), writ ref'd n.r.e. per curiam, 536 S.W.2d 559 (Tex. 1976) (court delineates law enforcement interests that are present in active cases); Open Records Decision No. 216 (1978); see also Open Records Decision No. 586 (1991) (need of another governmental body to withhold information may provide compelling reason for nondisclosure). Thus, the city may withhold the highlighted portions of these documents under section 552.108.
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
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division
Ref: ID# 128568
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Mr. James Page
2320 Springfield Drive
Mesquite, Texas 75181