|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
October 11, 2000
Ms. Doreen L. Wheeler
Dear Ms. Wheeler:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 139815.
The Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner (the "OCCC") received a request for a description of each loan made to the requestor, including the date of the loan, the amount, a description of the property, the interest rate, and the number of times renewed or extended, and the history of all layaway accounts. You have released or will release copies of the pawn tickets in your possession and other responsive documents which you do not claim to be excepted from required disclosure. However, you claim that the remaining requested information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101, 552.111, and 552.112 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions 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." This section encompasses information protected by other statutes. You contend that some of the requested information is confidential pursuant to section 371.206 of the Finance Code because of the method by which the OCCC obtained the requested information. Section 371.206 provides that [i]nformation obtained during an examination or inspection authorized by this subchapter [subchapter E of chapter 371 of the Finance Code] is confidential and privileged except for use by the commissioner or in a criminal investigation or prosecution.
Fin. Code § 371.206. Subchapter E of chapter 371 of the Finance Code authorizes examinations of pawnbrokers and inquiries into pawnbrokers' transactions and records by the consumer credit commissioner at his discretion. Fin. Code § 371.201. We conclude that Attachments C through H, which you describe as investigation reports, constitute information made confidential under section 371.206 of the Finance Code. The OCCC must withhold these Attachments C through H pursuant to section 552.101 of the Government Code.
You also assert that a portion of Attachment B is excepted from required public disclosure under section 552.111 of the Government Code. Section 552.111 of the Government Code protects from required public disclosure interagency and intraagency memoranda and letters, but only to the extent that they contain advice, opinion, or recommendation intended for use in the policymaking process. Open Records Decision No. 615 at 5 (1993); see also Austin v. City of San Antonio, 630 S.W.2d 391 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 1982, writ ref'd n.r.e.). Section 552.111 does not protect facts and written observation of facts and events that are severable from advice, opinions, and recommendation. Open Records Decision No. 615 at 5 (1993). After reviewing the document at issue, we conclude that most of the information you seek to withhold is purely factual, so is not protected from public disclosure under section 552.111. The one sentence that could be considered a recommendation is related to specific transactions at a specific location; it does not relate to policymaking of the OCCC. The OCCC must release Attachment B.
In summary, the OCCC must withhold Attachments C through H, but must release Attachment B 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).
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 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.
Patricia Michels Anderson
Ref: ID# 139815
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Annette S. Muecke
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US