|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
September 21, 2000
Mr. Boyd Kennedy
Dear Mr. Kennedy:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 140851.
The Texas Department of Parks & Wildlife (the "department") received a request for information regarding Champion 14 foot bass boats. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 31.105 of the Parks and Wildlife Code. You have supplied a representative sample of the type of documents you contend is made confidential by section 31.105 of the Parks and Wildlife Code.(1) We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Section 552.101 of the Government Code excepts from disclosure information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision. This section encompasses information made confidential by statute. Section 31.105 of the Parks and Wildlife Code provides:
(a) The operator of a vessel involved in a collision, accident, or other casualty that results in death or injury to a person or damage to property in excess of $500 shall file with the department on or before the expiration of 30 days after the incident a full description of the collision, accident, or casualty in accordance with regulations established by the department.
(b) The accident reports are confidential and are inadmissible in court as evidence.
(c) On request made by an authorized official or agency of the United States, any information available to the department under Subsection (a) of this section shall be sent to the official or agency.
You relate that the only source of the requested information is reports filed under this statute. The statute makes all such reports confidential. It also specifies that information derived from these reports may be released to an authorized official or agency of the United States, and does not otherwise authorize release of this information. We conclude that release of information derived from these reports to anyone other than an authorized official or agency of the United States is prohibited. The requestor here is not an authorized official or agency of the United States. Based on your representation that the only source of the responsive information is reports filed under this statute, we conclude that the responsive information must be withheld under section 552.101 of the Government Code.
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.
Michael Jay Burns
Ref: ID# 140851
Encl: Submitted documents
cc: Mr. John J. Bryan
1. 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.
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US