Office of the ATTORNEY GENERAL
December 19, 2002
Ms. Kelly N. Saucier
Dear Ms. Saucier:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 173965.
The City of Missouri City (the "city") received a request for six categories of information relating to criminal complaints and code enforcement violations at an abandoned mall. You state that the city does not have information responsive to the first two categories of the request.(1) You state that you will release the information responsive to category 5 of the request to the requestor. You claim, however, that the submitted information, which you believe to be responsive to categories 3,4, and 6 of the request, is excepted from disclosure under section 552.103 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Initially, we note that the submitted information is made expressly public under section 552.022 of the Government Code. Section 552.022 provides, in relevant 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:
(1) a completed report, audit, evaluation, or investigation made of, for, or by a governmental body, except as provided by Section 552.108[.]
The submitted information consists of completed reports, which are expressly public under section 552.022(a)(1). You do not claim that the submitted information is excepted under section 552.108. Therefore, you may only withhold the completed reports if they are made confidential under other law. Section 552.103 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); Open Records Decision No. 551 (1990) (statutory predecessor to section 552.103 serves only to protect a governmental body's position in litigation and does not itself make information confidential); see also Open Records Decision No. 665 at 2 n.5 (2000) (discretionary exceptions generally). Therefore, the city may not withhold the submitted information under section 552.103 of the Government Code.
We note, however, that some of the information in the submitted reports must be withheld under section 552.101 of the Government Code. Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Section 552.101 encompasses confidentiality provisions such as Family Code section 58.007. Juvenile law enforcement records relating to conduct that occurred on or after September 1, 1997 are confidential under section 58.007. The relevant language of section 58.007(c) reads as follows:
(c) Except as provided by Subsection (d), law enforcement records and files concerning a child and information stored, by electronic means or otherwise, concerning the child from which a record or file could be generated may not be disclosed to the public and shall be:
(1) if maintained on paper or microfilm, kept separate from adult files and records;
(2) if maintained electronically in the same computer system as records or files relating to adults, be accessible under controls that are separate and distinct from controls to access electronic data concerning adults; and
(3) maintained on a local basis only and not sent to a central state or federal depository, except as provided by Subchapter B.
One of the submitted offense report involves juvenile conduct that occurred after September 1, 1997. It does not appear that any of the exceptions in section 58.007 apply; therefore, case number 1-99-023010, which we have marked, is confidential pursuant to section 58.007(c) of the Family Code. The city must therefore withhold case number 1-99-023010 from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code.
Section 552.101 also encompasses common-law 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 Foundation v. Texas Industrial Accident Board, 540 S.W.2d 668 (Tex. 1976), cert. denied, 430 U.S. 931 (1977). The type of information considered intimate and embarrassing by the Texas Supreme Court in Industrial Foundation included information relating to sexual assault, pregnancy, mental or physical abuse in the workplace, illegitimate children, psychiatric treatment of mental disorders, attempted suicide, and injuries to sexual organs. Id. at 683. This office has determined that common-law privacy protects the following information: the kinds of prescription drugs a person is taking, see Open Records Decision No. 455 (1987); the results of mandatory urine testing, see id.; illnesses, operations, and physical handicaps of applicants, see id.; the fact that a person attempted suicide, see Open Records Decision No. 422 (1984); and information regarding drug overdoses, acute alcohol intoxication, obstetrical/gynecological illnesses, convulsions/seizures, or emotional/mental distress, see Open Records Decision No. 343 (1982). The submitted information contains such intimate information that is not of legitimate concern to the public. We have marked the information in the submitted documents that must be withheld under section 552.101 in conjunction with common-law privacy.
We note that when a governmental entity compiles criminal history information pertaining to a particular individual, the compiled information takes on a character that implicates the individual's right of privacy in a manner that the same information in an uncompiled state does not. See United States Dep't of Justice v. Reporters Comm. for Freedom of the Press, 489 U.S. 749 (1989); see also Open Records Decision No. 616 at 2-3 (1993). Thus, we have marked the criminal history information in the submitted reports that must be withheld under section 552.101 in conjunction with common-law privacy.
Next, we note that the social security numbers in the submitted reports may be excepted from required public disclosure under section 552.101 in conjunction with the 1990 amendments to the federal Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I), if it was obtained or is maintained by a governmental body pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990. See Open Records Decision No. 622 (1994). It is not apparent to us that the social security numbers contained in the information at issue were obtained or maintained by the city pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990. You have cited no law, nor are we aware of any law, enacted on or after October 1, 1990, that authorizes the city to obtain or maintain a social security number. Therefore, we have no basis for concluding that the social security numbers at issue were obtained or are maintained pursuant to such a statute and are, therefore, confidential under section 405(c)(2)(C)(vii)(I). We caution the city, however, that section 552.352 of the Government Code imposes criminal penalties for the release of confidential information. Prior to releasing any social security number, the city should ensure that this number was not obtained or is not maintained by the city pursuant to any provision of law enacted on or after October 1, 1990.
Finally, we note that some of the information in the submitted reports must be withheld under section 552.130 of the Government Code. Section 552.130 excepts from public disclosure information relating to a driver's license, license plate, or motor vehicle title or registration issued by an agency of this state. Thus, the city must withhold the Texas driver's license numbers, license plate numbers, and vehicle identification numbers in the submitted documents under section 552.130.
To summarize: (1) the city must withhold case number 1-99-023010 under section 552.101 and section 58.007of the Family Code; (2) we have marked the information in the submitted documents that must be withheld under section 552.101 and common-law privacy; (3) the social security numbers in the submitted reports may be excepted from required public disclosure under section 552.101 in conjunction with the 1990 amendments to the federal Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I); and (4) the city must withhold the Texas driver's license numbers, license plate numbers, and vehicle identification numbers in the submitted documents under section 552.130. The remaining requested 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.
Karen A. Eckerle
c: Mr. Mark A. Youngjohn
1. The Public Information Act does not require a governmental body to disclose information that did not exist at the time the request was received. Economic Opportunities Dev. Corp. v. Bustamante, 562 S.W.2d 266 (Tex. Civ. App.--San Antonio 1978, writ dism'd); Open Records Decision No. 452 at 3 (1986).
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