Office of the ATTORNEY GENERAL
December 9, 2002
Ms. Lillian Guillen Graham
Dear Ms. Graham:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 173306.
The Mesquite Police Department (the "department") received a request for "[a]ll records in connection with service Numbers 02092894; 02092543; and 02093618." You claim that portions of the requested information are excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101, 552.103, 552.108, and 552.130 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Because section 552.108 is the most inclusive of the exceptions you claim, we address it first. You assert that the information submitted at Tab 2 may be withheld under section 552.108 of the Government Code, which excepts from disclosure "[i]nformation held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime . . . if: (1) release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime." Generally, a governmental body claiming section 552.108 must reasonably explain, if the information does not supply the explanation on its face, how and why the release of the requested information would interfere with law enforcement. See Gov't Code §§ 552.108(a)(1), (b)(1), .301(e)(1)(A); see also Ex parte Pruitt, 551 S.W.2d 706 (Tex. 1977). You state that the information submitted at Tab 2 pertains to a pending criminal prosecution and assert that release of this information would interfere with this case. Based on this representation, we conclude that the release of the information at Tab 2 would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime. See Houston Chronicle Publ'g Co. v. City of Houston, 531 S.W.2d 177 (Tex. Civ. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1975), writ ref'd n.r.e. per curiam, 536 S.W.2d 559 (Tex. 1976) (court delineates law enforcement interests that are present in active cases).
However, section 552.108 does not except basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime. Gov't Code § 552.108(c). We believe such basic information refers to the information held to be public in Houston Chronicle, including a detailed description of the offense. See 531 S.W.2d at 186-87. Thus, the department must release the types of information that are considered to be front page information, even if this information is not actually located on the front page. See Open Records Decision No. 127 (1976) (summarizing types of information made public by Houston Chronicle). Although section 552.108(a)(1) authorizes the department to withhold from disclosure the remaining information at Tab 2, the department may choose to release all or part of it that is not otherwise confidential by law. See Gov't Code § 552.007.(1)
We turn now to your arguments regarding the 9-1-1 caller 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 incorporates statutory confidentiality provisions such as those found in chapter 772 of the Health and Safety Code. Chapter 772 authorizes the development of local emergency communications districts. Sections 772.118, 772.218, and 772.318 of the Health and Safety Code apply only to an emergency 9-1-1 district established in accordance with chapter 772. See Open Records Decision No. 649 (1996). These statutes make confidential the originating telephone numbers and addresses of 9-1-1 callers that are furnished by a service supplier. Id. at 2. Section 772.118 applies to an emergency communication district for a county with a population of more than two million. Section 772.218 applies to an emergency communication district for a county with a population of more than 860,000. Section 772.318 applies to an emergency communication district for a county with a population of more than 20,000. You contend that the originating telephone numbers and addresses of 9-1-1 callers contained in the information submitted at Tabs 3 and 4 are confidential under chapter 772. To the extent the originating addresses and telephone numbers of 9-1-1 callers were supplied by a 9-1-1 service supplier to a 9-1-1 district that is subject to section 772.118, 772.218, or 772.318 of the Health and Safety Code, the addresses and telephone numbers must be withheld from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code as information deemed confidential by statute. However, if the telephone numbers and addresses were not provided by a 9-1-1 service supplier to a 9-1-1 district subject to section 772.118, 772.218, or 772.318, the addresses and telephone numbers must be released.
We note that a portion of the submitted records must be withheld under section 552.101 in conjunction with the common law right of privacy. The doctrine of common law privacy protects information if it is highly intimate or embarrassing such that its release would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person and the public has no legitimate interest in it. Industrial Found. v. Texas Indus. Accident Bd., 540 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. 1976). Prior decisions of this office have found that personal financial information not relating to a financial transaction between an individual and a governmental body is protected by common law privacy. See Open Records Decision Nos. 600 (1992), 545 (1990). We have marked the personal financial information in the submitted documents that must be withheld under section 552.101 in conjunction with common law privacy.
You assert that portions of the information submitted at Tab 4 are excepted under section 552.130 of the Government Code, which provides in relevant part:
(a) Information is excepted from the requirement of Section 552.021 if the information relates to:
(1) a motor vehicle operator's or driver's license or permit issued by an agency of this state; [or]
(2) a motor vehicle title or registration issued by an agency of this state[.]
We have marked the information at Tab 4 that the department must withhold under section 552.130.
Finally, we note that the remaining submitted information includes a social security number. A social security number or "related record" may be excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with the 1990 amendments to the federal Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I), which make confidential social security numbers and related records obtained and maintained by a state agency or political subdivision of the state pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990. See Open Records Decision No. 622 (1994). We have no basis for concluding that the social security number in the file is confidential under section 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I), and therefore excepted from public disclosure under section 552.101 on the basis of that federal provision. We caution, however, that section 552.352 of the Public Information Act imposes criminal penalties for the release of confidential information. Prior to releasing any social security number information, you should ensure that no such information was obtained or is maintained by the department pursuant to any provision of law, enacted on or after October 1, 1990.
In summary, pursuant to section 552.108(a)(1), the department may withhold the information submitted at Tab 2 except for basic information. The telephone numbers and addresses of 9-1-1 callers must be withheld under section 552.101 to the extent they were supplied by a 9-1-1 service supplier to a 9-1-1 district that is subject to section 772.118, 772.218, or 772.318 of the Health and Safety Code. The department must withhold the marked personal financial information pursuant to section 552.101 and common law privacy The marked motor vehicle record information at Tab 4 must be withheld under section 552.130. Social security numbers must be withheld if obtained or maintained pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990. All other information must be released.
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 Hadassah Schloss at the Texas Building and Procurement 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. We note that a third party may challenge this ruling by filing suit seeking to withhold information from a requestor. Gov't Code § 552.325. 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.
Denis C. McElroy
c: Mr. J. Michael Price II
1. As our ruling on this issue is dispositive of the information at Tab 2, we need not address your arguments under section 552.103 or section 552.130 for this information except to note that basic information is not generally excepted from public disclosure under section 552.103 of the Government Code. Open Records Decision No. 597 (1991).
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