|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
July 28, 2000
Mr. Steven D. Monte´
Dear Mr. Monte´:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 137544.
The City of Dallas (the "city") received a request for two service reports specified by number, and any other service or incident reports "pertaining to complaints or allegations of illegal activity at [a specified address] at anytime after January 1, 1996." You state that you have released to the requestor the two service reports that were specified by number. You have submitted for our review two additional incident reports that are responsive to the request. You assert that the submitted information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with the common law right of privacy. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
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. Information must be withheld from the public as implicating the common law right to privacy 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. Industrial Found. v. Texas Indus. Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977); Open Records Decision No. 611 at 1 (1992).
In Industrial Foundation, the Texas Supreme Court considered to be intimate and embarrassing information relating to sexual assault, pregnancy, mental or physical abuse in the workplace, illegitimate children, psychiatric treatment of mental disorders, attempted suicide, and injuries to sexual organs. Id. at 683. This office, in applying the Industrial Foundation test, has found the following types of information to be excepted from required public disclosure as implicating an individual's common law right to privacy: some kinds of medical information or information indicating disabilities or specific illnesses, see Open Records Decision Nos. 470 (1987) (illness from severe emotional and job-related stress), 455 (1987) (prescription drugs, illnesses, operations, and physical handicaps), and personal financial information not relating to the financial transaction between an individual and a governmental body, see Open Records Decision Nos. 600 (1992), 545 (1990).
With reference to both of the submitted incident reports, you argue that because the requestor knows the identity of the complainant in each instance, the information contained in the reports in its entirety must be withheld from the requestor. We disagree. We note that the submitted documents contain information of legitimate public interest and which is reasonably severable from information that implicates the common law privacy of an individual. Accordingly, we have marked for redaction the specific information in the submitted documents that we believe is excepted from public disclosure under section 552.101 in conjunction with the common law right of privacy. You must redact from the documents the specific information that we have marked. However, the remaining information is not excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 and we conclude that you must release this information to the requestor.
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# 137544
Encl. Marked documents
cc: Mr. Randy Roberts
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US