Office of the ATTORNEY GENERAL
December 10, 2002
Mr. Robert W. Wilson
Dear Mr. Wilson:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 173370.
The Alamo Community College District (the "district"), which you represent, received a request for all cellular telephone billing records of a named former member of the district board of trustees, pertaining to service paid for by the district during this individual's tenure on the board. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.103 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
We begin by noting that the requested telephone records are subject to section 552.022 of the Government Code, which provides in pertinent part:
(a) Without limiting the amount or kind of information that is public information under this chapter, the following categories of information are public information and not excepted from required disclosure under this chapter unless they are expressly confidential under other law:
(3) information in an account, voucher, or contract relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds by a governmental body[.]
The requested telephone records are information in an account relating to the expenditure of public funds by a governmental body. Therefore, as prescribed by section 552.022, such information must be released unless it is confidential under other law. Section 552.103 of the Government Code is a discretionary exception to disclosure that protects the governmental body's interests and is therefore not other law that makes information expressly confidential for purposes of section 552.022(a). See Dallas Area Rapid Transit v. Dallas Morning News, 4 S.W.3d 469 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1999, no pet.) (governmental body may waive section 552.103). Therefore, the district may not withhold the requested telephone records under section 552.103 of the Government Code.
We note, however, that the submitted records contain an account number that is subject to section 552.136 of the Government Code. Section 552.136 provides in relevant part:
(a) In this section, "access device" means a card, plate, code, account number, personal identification number, electronic serial number, mobile identification number, or other telecommunications service, equipment, or instrument identifier or means of account access that alone or in conjunction with another access device may be used to:
(1) obtain money, goods, services, or another thing of value; or
(2) initiate a transfer of funds other than a transfer originated solely by paper instrument.
(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, a credit card, debit card, charge card, or access device number that is collected, assembled, or maintained by or for a governmental body is confidential.
Accordingly, the district must withhold the account number we have marked pursuant to section 552.136 of the Government Code. The remainder of the requested telephone records must be released 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 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.
David R. Saldivar
c: Ms. Yvonne D. Mueller
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US