Office of the ATTORNEY GENERAL
December 18, 2002
Mr. Gordon Bowman
Dear Mr. Bowman:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 173836.
Travis County (the "county") received a request for information relating to the county's decision not to include anti-sweatshop standards in its bid for uniforms and for the "documents that Horace Small Apparel provided to the [c]ounty in response to concerns about sweatshops." You have submitted no information responsive to the portion of the request requesting documents that Horace Small Apparel provided to the county. Accordingly, to the extent that you possess documents responsive to this portion of the request, you must release them now. See Gov't Code §§ 552.006,.301(a),.302. You claim that the information responsive to the portion of the request requesting information regarding the county's determination that the county should not include anti-sweatshop standards in its bid for uniforms is excepted from disclosure under section 552.107 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Section 552.107(1) excepts information that an attorney cannot disclose because of a duty to his client. In Open Records Decision No. 574 (1990), this office concluded that section 552.107 excepts from public disclosure only "privileged information," that is, information that reflects either confidential communications from the client to the attorney or the attorney's legal advice or opinions; it does not apply to all client information held by a governmental body's attorney. Id. at 5. See also Open Records Decision No. 676 (2002) (section 552.107(1) excepts a client government body's communications as defined by Texas Rule of Evidence 503).
You state, and the submitted information shows, that the responsive document consists of confidential communications between county employees and the county attorney made for the purpose of the rendition of legal services for the county. Based upon your representations and our review of the submitted document, we agree that the responsive document is subject to section 552.107. You may therefore withhold the responsive document pursuant to section 552.107.
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.
Maverick F. Fisher
c: Mr. Daniel Hennefeld
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US