|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
October 25, 2000
Ms. Laura Garza Jimenez
Dear Ms. Jimenez:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 141029.
The Nueces County Sheriff's Department (the "department") received a request for a specified video tape recording. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.103 of the Government Code. You acknowledge that this information was the subject of an earlier request for opinion and that you were instructed to release this information to a previous requestor.
Section 552.007 of the Government Code prohibits a governmental body from withholding information that it has made available to the public, unless the disclosure is expressly prohibited by law or the information is confidential under law. Further, a governmental body must release requested information, and is prohibited from asking for a decision from the attorney general about whether information requested under the Public Information Act is within an exception, if the governmental body has previously requested and received a determination from the attorney general concerning the precise information at issue and the attorney general determined that the information is public information. Gov't Code § 552.301(f).
In this case, you submitted a previous request for opinion concerning release of this precise information and this office determined that it must be released. Pursuant to the written opinion of this office, you made the requested information available to the previous requestor. We are of the opinion that where specific information has been the subject of a Public Information Act request, and this office has directed the release of that information, a governmental body may not withhold the information in response to a subsequent request unless release of the information is prohibited by law or the information is made confidential by law.
Release of the subject information is not prohibited by law and the information is not made confidential by law. Therefore, you must release the requested information to the current 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 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# 141029
Encl: Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Guy Lawrence
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US