Office of the ATTORNEY GENERAL
December 13, 2002
Ms. Pamela Smith
Dear Ms. Smith:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 175106.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (the "department") received a request for the department's general manual on CD-ROM as well as copies of "each and all of the completed 'Job Satisfaction Questionnaires' which were distributed to Highway Patrol officers in Region 2 on or about August 1, 2002 by the Office of Audit and Inspection." You state that the general manual will be provided to the requestor, but claim that the questionnaires are excepted from disclosure under section 552.116 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted representative sample of information.(1)
Section 552.116 of the Government Code provides as follows:
(a) An audit working paper of an audit of the state auditor or the auditor of a state agency or institution of higher education as defined by Section 61.003, Education Code, is excepted from [required public disclosure]. If information in an audit working paper is also maintained in another record, that other record is not excepted from [required public disclosure] by this section.
(b) In this section:
(1) 'Audit' means an audit authorized or required by a statute of this state or the United States and includes an investigation.
(2) 'Audit working paper' includes all information, documentary or otherwise, prepared or maintained in conducting an audit or preparing an audit report, including:
(A) intra-agency and interagency communications; and
(B) drafts of the audit report or portions of those drafts.
A governmental body that invokes section 552.116 must demonstrate that the audit working papers are from an audit authorized or required by statute by identifying the applicable statute. Here, you have not identified the applicable statute, if any. Thus, you have not demonstrated that the requested information was prepared or maintained by the state auditor or the auditor of a state agency or institution of higher education in conducting an audit authorized or required by a statute of this state or the United States. See Gov't Code §§ 552.116(a), (b)(1), (b)(2). Therefore, the requested information is not excepted under section 552.116. As you raise no other exceptions to disclosure, the submitted information must be released to the requestor in its entirety.
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.
Michael A. Pearle
c: Mr. Donald W. Dickson II, Esq.
1. 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.
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US