|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
May 8, 2000
Mr. William C. Terry
Dear Mr. Terry:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 135356.
The City of Leonard (the "city"), which you represent, received a request for seven items of information regarding the city's financial statements and budget, and information concerning the city's police department. You state that you have released a majority of the requested information to the requestor. However, you state that the information responsive to item 5, verifying the hiring process of a named police officer, and item 7, complaints filed against the city regarding the conduct of the police department's peace officers from 1998 to the present, is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.102, 552.103, and 552.108 of the Government Code.(1) We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Initially, we note that you assert that the documents responsive to requested item 7 are excepted from public disclosure under sections 552.103 and 552.108. Pursuant to section 552.301(e)(1), a governmental body is required to submit to this office within fifteen business days after receiving the request (1) general written comments stating the reasons why the stated exceptions apply that would allow the information to be withheld, (2) a copy of the written request for information, and (3) a copy of the specific information requested or representative samples of the information if voluminous amounts of information is requested. See Gov't Code § 552.301(e)(1)(A),(B),(D). However, you have not provided this office with the documents responsive to requested item 7. Therefore, as provided by section 552.302, the information that is the subject of this request for information is presumed to be subject to required public disclosure. Gov't Code § 552.302. Information that is presumed to be subject to required public disclosure must be released unless there exists a compelling reason to withhold the information. Gov't Code § 552.302. You have not presented a compelling reason to withhold the requested information. Therefore, the documents responsive to requested item 7 must be released to the requestor.
Next, you assert that the documents responsive to requested item 5 are excepted from public disclosure pursuant to section 552.102 of the Government Code. Section 552.102 excepts from disclosure "information in a personnel file, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." Gov't Code § 552.102(a). In Hubert v. Harte-Hanks Texas Newspapers, 652 S.W.2d 546 (Tex. App.-Austin 1983, writ ref'd n.r.e.), the court ruled that the test to be applied to information claimed to be protected under section 552.102 is the same as the test formulated by the Texas Supreme Court in Industrial Found. v. Texas Indus. Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. 1976) for information claimed to be protected under the doctrine of common law privacy as incorporated by section 552.101 of the Act. Common law privacy excepts from disclosure private facts about an individual. 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).
The information you seek to withhold relates to the hiring process of the city's named police officer, and as such cannot be deemed outside the realm of public interest. See Open Records Decision Nos. 484 (1987) (public's interest in knowing how police departments resolve complaints against police officer ordinarily outweighs officer's privacy interest), 470 (1987) (public employee's job performance does not generally constitute his private affairs), 455 (1987) (public employee's job performances or abilities generally not protected by privacy), 444 (1986) (public has legitimate interest in knowing reasons for dismissal, demotion, promotion, or resignation of public employees), 329 (1982) (reasons for employee's resignation are not ordinarily excepted by constitutional or common law privacy). Therefore, based on our review of the information, we conclude that the submitted documents are not protected from disclosure under section 552.101 or 552.102 in conjunction with the common law right to privacy.
However, we note that section 552.101 also excepts from public disclosure information protected by other statutes. The submitted information includes criminal history record information ("CHRI"). Criminal history record information generated by the National Crime Information Center ("NCIC") or by the Texas Crime Information Center ("TCIC") is confidential. Title 28, part 20 of the Code of Federal Regulations governs the release of CHRI that states obtain from the federal government or other states. Open Records Decision No. 565 (1990). The federal regulations allow each state to follow its individual law with respect to CHRI it generates. Id. Section 411.083 of the Government Code deems confidential CHRI that the Department of Public Safety ("DPS") maintains, except that the DPS may disseminate this information as provided in chapter 411, subchapter F of the Government Code. See Gov't Code § 411.083.
Sections 411.083(b)(1) and 411.089(a) authorize a criminal justice agency to obtain CHRI; however, a criminal justice agency may not release CHRI except to another criminal justice agency for a criminal justice purpose. Id. § 411.089(b)(1). Other entities specified in chapter 411 of the Government Code are entitled to obtain CHRI from DPS or another criminal justice agency; however, those entities may not release CHRI except as provided by chapter 411. See generally id. §§ 411.090 - .127. Thus, any CHRI generated by the federal government or another state may not be made available to the requestor except in accordance with federal regulations. See Open Records Decision No. 565 (1990). Furthermore, any CHRI obtained from DPS or any other criminal justice agency must be withheld under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with Government Code chapter 411, subchapter F. We have marked the CHRI which must be withheld.
The requested information also includes a medical record which is subject to section 159.002 of the Occupations Code, known as the Medical Practices Act ("MPA"). Section 552.101 also encompasses confidentiality provisions such as section 159.002 of the Occupations Code. The MPA provides in relevant part:
(b) A record of the identity, diagnosis, evaluation, or treatment of a patient by a physician that is created or maintained by a physician is confidential and privileged and may not be disclosed except as provided by this chapter.
(c) A person who receives information from a confidential communication or record as described by this chapter . . . may not disclose the information except to the extent that disclosure is consistent with the authorized purposes for which the information was first obtained.
The MPA requires that any subsequent release of medical records be consistent with the purposes for which a governmental body obtained the records. Open Records Decision No. 565 at 7 (1990).(2) Thus, the MPA governs access to medical records. Open Records Decision No. 598 (1991). Moreover, information that is subject to the MPA includes both medical records and information obtained from those medical records. See Occ. Code § 159.002(a), (b), (c); Open Records Decision No. 598 (1991). We have marked the medical record that appears in the submitted documents. The city may release the record only in accordance with the MPA.
Additionally, the submitted information contains an eligibility verification I-9 form. Release of an eligibility verification form I-9 is governed by title 8, section 1324a of the United States Code. This statute provides that I-9 forms "may not be used for purposes other than for enforcement of [the immigration laws of] this chapter" and for enforcement of other federal statutes governing crime and criminal investigations. 8 U.S.C. § 1324a(b)(5); see 8 C.F.R. § 274a.2(b)(4). Release of this document under chapter 552 of the Government Code would not be for a permitted purpose and, therefore, we conclude that the I-9 form is confidential and must be withheld under section 552.101 of the Government Code.
Moreover, the submitted information contains a drug dependency report, medical evaluation, and declaration of psychological and emotional health from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education. Section 1701.306 of the Occupations Code provides as follows:
(a) The commission may not issue a license to a person as an officer or county jailer unless the person is examined by:
(1) a licensed psychologist or by a psychiatrist who declares in writing that the person is in satisfactory psychological and emotional health to serve as the type of officer for which a license is sought; and
(2) a licensed physician who declares in writing that the person does not show any trace of drug dependency or illegal drug use after a physical examination, blood test, or other medical test.
(b) An agency hiring a person for whom a license as an officer or county jailer is sought shall select the examining physician and the examining psychologist or psychiatrist. The agency shall prepare a report of each declaration required by Subsection (a) and shall maintain a copy of the report on file in a format readily accessible to the commission. A declaration is not public information.
We have marked the information that must not be released pursuant to section 1701.306 of the Occupations Code.
The submitted documents also contain motor vehicle information that is confidential under section 552.130 of the Government Code. Section 552.130 excepts from required public disclosure information that relates to a motor vehicle operator's or driver's license or permit issued by an agency of this state or a motor vehicle title or registration issued by an agency of this state. Therefore, under section 552.130, the city must withhold the Texas driver's license number that appears in the submitted documents and the copy of the driver's license. We have marked the documents containing this information.
Next, we note that many of the submitted documents contain information that is confidential under subsection 552.117(2) of the Government Code. Subsection 552.117(2) provides for the confidentiality of current and former peace officers' home addresses, home telephone numbers, social security numbers, and family member information. We have marked the information that is excepted from disclosure under section 552.117(2). The city must withhold this information. Except for the marked information, you must release the remaining information.
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.
Noelle C. Letteri
Ref: ID# 135356
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Marvin Sweetin
1. The Public Information Act (the "Act") was codified in the Texas Government Code at chapter 552. Act of May 4, 1993, 73rd Leg., R.S., ch. 268, § 1, 1993 Tex. Gen. Laws 583, 594-607. The codification of the Act was a non-substantive revision. Act of May 4, 1993, 73rd Leg., R.S., ch. 268, § 47, 1993 Tex. Gen. Laws 583, 986.
2. Inasmuch as the Seventy-sixth Legislature intended no substantive change in the law in codifying the Medical Practice Act at subtitle B of title 3 of the Occupations Code, open records decisions interpreting the former section 5.08 of article 4495b of Vernon's Texas Civil Statutes retain their relevance. See Act of May 13, 1999, 76th Leg., R.S., ch. 388, § 7, 1999 Tex. Gen. Laws 1431, 2440.
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