|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
April 28, 2000
Mr. Matthew L. Wade
Dear Mr. Wade:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 134152.
The City of Lubbock (the "city") received a request for the electric utility records relating to a commercial customer, the local professional ice hockey organization. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.131 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and have reviewed the submitted representative sample of information.(1)
Section 552.131, as added by Senate Bill 7,(2) excepts from disclosure a public power utility's information related to a competitive matter. The exception defines "competitive matter" as a matter the public power utility governing body in good faith determines by vote to be related to the public power utility's competitive activity. The governing body must also, in like manner, determine that the release of the information would give an advantage to competitors or prospective competitors. Section 552.131(a)(3) lists thirteen categories of information that may not be deemed competitive matters. The attorney general may conclude that section 552.131 is inapplicable to the requested information only if, based on the information provided, the attorney general determines the public power utility governing body has not acted in good faith in determining that the issue, matter, or activity is a competitive matter or that the information requested is not reasonably related to a competitive matter. Gov't Code § 552.131(c). Further, section 552.131(b) provides:
Information or records are excepted from the requirements of Section 552.021 if the information or records are reasonably related to a competitive matter, as defined in this section. Excepted information or records include the text of any resolution of the public power utility governing body determining which issues, activities, or matters constitute competitive matters. Information or records of a municipally owned utility that are reasonably related to a competitive matter are not subject to disclosure under this chapter, whether or not, under the Utilities Code, the municipally owned utility has adopted customer choice or serves in a multiply certificated service area. This section does not limit the right of a public power utility governing body to withhold from disclosure information deemed to be within the scope of any other exception provided for in this chapter, subject to the provisions of this chapter.
Gov't Code § 552.131(b) (emphasis added).
On October 14, 1999, the city council passed a resolution by vote pursuant to section 552.131 in which it defined the requested information to be within the scope of the term "competitive matter." Part 1, section (E)(1) of the city resolution defines "[c]ustomer lists or identification data, consumption data, or rate/billing/account data" as competitive matters the disclosure of which would give advantage to competitors or potential competitors. The requested information is not clearly among the thirteen categories of information expressly exempted from the definition of competitive matter and we have no evidence the city council failed to act in good faith. Consequently, we agree that the information requested is a competitive matter in accordance with the city's resolution and, therefore, is excepted from disclosure pursuant to section 552.131.
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).
If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. 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.
Ref: ID# 134152
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Mary Alice Gonzalez
1. In reaching our conclusion here, we assume that the "representative sample" of 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.
2. Act of May 27, 1999, 76th Leg., R.S., ch. 405, § 46 (codified at Gov't Code § 552.131).
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