|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
December 13, 1999
Ms. Shelly Doty
Dear Ms. Doty:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 130554.
The City of Cleburne Police Department (the "department") received a request for police report number 992455. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101 and 552.108(a)(1) of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and have reviewed the submitted information.
You assert that the submitted information is excepted from disclosure pursuant to section 552.108 of the Government Code. Section 552.108 of the Government Code states that information held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime is excepted from required public disclosure "if release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime." Gov't Code § 552.108(a)(1). 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). Neither your letter to our office nor the information on its face provides an adequate showing of how and why the release of the submitted information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of a crime. Thus, we conclude that you may not withhold the submitted information pursuant to section 552.108 of the Government Code. We will now consider your claim that certain portions of the information may be withheld under section 552.101 of the Government Code.
You claim that a credit card number contained in the submitted documents is excepted from disclosure by section 552.101 of the Government Code. Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Accordingly, section 552.101 encompasses common-law privacy. Industrial Found. v. Texas Indus. Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977). Common-law privacy excepts from disclosure private facts about an
individual. Id. Therefore, 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). This office has found that an individual's personal financial information not relating to the financial transaction between an individual and a governmental body is excepted from required public disclosure under common-law privacy. See Open Records Decision Nos. 600 (1992), 545 (1990). We agree that the personal credit card number must be withheld under section 552.101 as private information.
Additionally, it is important to note that the submitted documents contain a social security number. Social security numbers 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 the social security number in the file is confidential under section 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I), and therefore excepted from public disclosure under section 552.101 of the Public Information Act on the basis of that federal provision. We remind you, however, that section 552.353 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.
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 upon as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have questions about this ruling, please contact our office.
Carla Gay Dickson
Ref: ID# 130544
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Delana Osbourn
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US