|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
June 28, 2000
Ms. Cynthia B. Garcia
Dear Ms. Garcia:
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# 137385.
The City of Fort Worth (the "city") received a request for information relating to a shooting that occurred at Wedgewood Baptist Church on September 15, 1999. You claim that the information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108 of the Government Code. You also assert that the information at issue was addressed previously in Open Records Letter No. 99-3512 (1999).(1)
Section 552.301 of the Government Code generally requires a governmental body that receives a written request for information that it wishes to withhold from required public disclosure and that it considers to be within one of the Public Information Act's exceptions to disclosure to ask the attorney general to determine that the information at issue is excepted from disclosure. See Gov't Code § 552.301(a). However, when a request involves the precise information at issue in a prior open records ruling, a governmental body need not request another decision from the attorney general under section 552.301(a). Therefore, as to the information requested, the city may rely on the decision in Open Records Letter No. 99-3512 (1999). Because we have already ruled on this information, we do not address the exception the city has claimed.
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# 137385
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Jack Douglas, Jr.
1. Specifically, the requestor seeks a transcript and/or tape recording of phone calls made by Larry Gene Ashbrook to his brother, Aaron Ashbrook, prior to the Sept. 15, 1999 shooting at Wedgewood Baptist Church, a letter sent by Pleasant Ridge Church of Christ in Arlington to Larry Gene Ashbrook's home, regarding Jack Ashbrook's testamentary wishes, and Aaron Ashbrook's statement to the police about his brother. While the current request is more specific than the previous ones, the information sought in the instant case is included in the earlier, broader requests for all documents, tapes, notes, and the entire case file related to the above-mentioned shooting.
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