|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
October 23, 2000
Mr. Guadalupe Cuellar
Dear Mr. Cuellar:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Public Information Act (the "Act"), chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 140913.
The City of El Paso Office of the City Attorney (the "city") received a request from a named individual for his "Lieutenant's Exam and Assessment Packet." You state that the information responsive to the request has been released to the requestor, except for the documents you have submitted as exhibits "B" and "C." You assert that this information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.122 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.(1)
Section 552.122 of the Government Code excepts from required public disclosure "a test item developed by a . . . governmental body[.]" Gov't Code § 552.122(b). This office has stated that a "test item" in section 552.122 includes "any standard means by which an individual's or group's knowledge or ability in a particular area is evaluated," but does not encompass evaluations of an employee's overall job performance or suitability. Open Records Decision No. 626 at 6 (1994). When answers to test questions might reveal the questions themselves, the answers may be withheld under section 552.122. Id. at 8; Attorney General Opinion JM-640 at 3 (1987). The question of whether specific information falls within the ambit of section 552.122(b) must be determined on a case-by-case basis. ORD 626 at 6. Traditionally, this office has applied section 552.122 where release of "test items" might compromise the effectiveness of further examinations. Id. at 4-5; see also Open Records Decision No. 118 (1976).
Exhibit "B" consists of an "in basket" exercise for police lieutenant candidates which, you state, "evaluates the applicant's knowledge in specific areas concerning police functions and matters." You state that each exercise item that comprises the "in basket" exercise relates "to specific tasks that [police] lieutenant's are required to handle" and that the applicant's answer to each item thus reveals the applicant's knowledge "in each specific area identified in the items." Exhibit "C" consists of model answers to each exercise item. We believe that release of the information in exhibit "C" would tend to reveal the questions asked in exhibit "B". Further, you explain that essentially the same exercise items and model responses are used repetitively, such that the release of the information would tend to compromise future examinations. Based on your representations and our review of the submitted information, we believe that the information in exhibits "B" and "C" is excepted from disclosure in this instance. The city may withhold this information from the requestor pursuant to section 552.122 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.
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Glenn Archer
1. You indicate that exhibit "C" consists of "sample responses." In reaching our conclusion here, 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.
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