|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
September 12, 2000
Ms. Mary E. Reveles
Dear Ms. Reveles:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 138875.
The Fort Bend County Attorney (the "county attorney") received a request for a complete copy of the Fort Bend County Community Development block grant application for the years 1999 and 2000 for the Child Advocates of Fort Bend County (the "Child Advocates"). You claim that the names, addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers, and personal family information of the board members, employees, and volunteers of Child Advocates are excepted from disclosure under sections 552.102 and 552.117 of the Government Code.(1) We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Section 552.117(1) excepts from disclosure information that relates to the home addresses, home telephone numbers, social security numbers, and family member information of current or former officials or employees of a governmental body who request that this information remain confidential under section 552.024. Section 552.117(1) does not except the name of a current or former official or employee. Further, section 552.117(1) was intended to protect only information pertaining to employees and officials of the governmental body receiving the request for information which in this instance is the county attorney's office. However, you have requested a decision concerning the disclosure of section 552.117(1) information of current or former officials and employees of Child Advocates. Although you are not required to seek a decision regarding the section 552.117(1) information of employees of Child Advocates, you have provided a letter from Child Advocates which lists the employees that have requested to have their personal information withheld. Therefore, we will address the application of section 552.117(1) and section 552.024 to current or former officials and employees of Child Advocates.(2)
In order to withhold information under section 552.117(1), each current or former official or employee must have elected under section 552.024 to keep his or her home address and home telephone number confidential prior to the date on which the county attorney received the request. See Open Records No. 622 (1994) (providing that election must be made prior to date request received). In the letter you have provided, the Executive Director of Child Advocates provides a list of employees who requested in writing that "personal information" be withheld prior to the June 22, 2000 request. We are assuming that the "personal information" includes addresses and telephone numbers. Thus, you may withhold the home addresses and home telephone numbers of the officials and employees who made a section 552.024 election to withhold this information prior to June 22, 2000. We have marked the information that you may withhold. However, the addresses and home telephone numbers of current or former employees or officials who failed to make the section 552.024 election or made the election after receipt of the request may not be withheld under section 552.117(1).
You also argue that section 552.102 protects the names, addresses, and telephone numbers regardless of whether the employees or officials made a timely section 552.024 election. 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 Foundation for information claimed to be protected under the doctrine of common law privacy as incorporated by section 552.101 of the Government Code. Industrial Found. v. Texas Indus. Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668, 683-85 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977).
Section 552.101 of the Government Code protects "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision," including information protected by the common law right of privacy. Id. The doctrine of common law privacy protects information that contains highly intimate or embarrassing facts about a person's private affairs such that its release would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person and the information must be of no legitimate concern to the public. Id.
This office has previously concluded that home addresses and telephone numbers of private citizens are not considered "intimate" information and are, therefore, not protected under common law privacy. See Open Records Decision Nos. 478 (1987), 455 (1987), 254 (1980). Further, the names of governmental body employees are expressly made public by section 552.022(a)(2) of the Government Code. Therefore, we conclude that the names, addresses, and home telephone numbers of current or former officials and employees of Child Advocates are not protected under section 552.101 and common law privacy.
In conclusion, you may withhold the marked addresses and telephone numbers of the employees or officials who made a section 552.024 election prior to the receipt of the request on June 22, 2000. 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).
Please remember that under the Act the release of information triggers certain procedures for costs and charges to the requestor. If records are released in compliance with this ruling, be sure that all charges for the information are at or below the legal amounts. Questions or complaints about over-charging must be directed to the General Services Commission at 512/475-2497.
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# 138875
Encl: Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Gary W. Gates, Jr.
1. After reviewing the submitted information, we have found that the information only contains the home addresses and telephone numbers of staff members and board members and does not contain social security numbers or family member information. Based on your arguments and our review of the documents, we assume that any "volunteers" are either employees or board members and, as such, are addressed by this ruling.
2. For purposes of this ruling, we are assuming that Child Advocates is a "governmental body" under section 552.003 of the Government Code because section 552.117(1) only applies to current or former officials and employees of a governmental body. If Child Advocates is not a governmental body, then section 552.117(1) does not apply to its employees or officials.
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US