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March 10, 1999

Mr. Jason C. Marshall
Nichols, Jackson, Dillard, Hager & Smith, L.L.P.
1800 Lincoln Plaza
500 North Akard
Dallas, Texas 75201

OR99-0682

Dear Mr. Marshall:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request (No. 4492) was assigned ID# 124306

The City of Coppell (the "city") received a request for information relating to an assault that occurred in the 500 block of South Moore on June 22, 1998. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted documents.

Section 552.301 of the Government Code provides that a governmental body must ask the attorney general for a decision as to whether requested documents must be disclosed not later than the tenth business day after the date of receiving the written request. The ten-day deadline is a statutorily imposed deadline. Gov't Code 552.301. The time limitation found in section 552.301 is an express legislative recognition of the importance of having public information produced in a timely fashion. Hancock v. State Bd. of Ins., 797 S.W.2d 379, 381 (Tex. App.--Austin 1990, no writ). Although the written request for information shows that it was faxed on August 3, 1998, the city's date stamp shows that the city received the written request for information on October 16, 1998. You argue that, although the city was certainly able to process the request when it was originally submitted, you did not do so because you did not have the requestor's proper address. You did not request a decision from this office until February 24, 1999, more than ten business days after the requestor's written request. The city's lack of a proper address for the requestor does not prevent it from requesting a decision from this office within ten business days if it wishes to withhold the requested information. Therefore, we conclude that the city failed to meet its ten-day deadline for requesting an opinion from this office.

When a governmental body fails to request a decision within ten business days of receiving a request for information, the information at issue is presumed public. Hancock v. State Bd. of Ins., 797 S.W.2d 379 (Tex. App.--Austin 1990, no writ); City of Houston v. Houston Chronicle Publ'g Co., 673 S.W.2d 316, 323 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1984, no writ); Open Records Decision No. 319 (1982). The governmental body must show a compelling interest to withhold the information to overcome this presumption. See id. Normally, a compelling interest is that some other source of law makes the information confidential or that third party interests are at stake. Open Records Decision No. 150 at 2 (1977). In the absence of a demonstration that the information is confidential by law or that other compelling reasons exist as to why the information should not be made public, you must release the information. See also Gov't Code 552.352 (the distribution of confidential information is a criminal offense).

Here, the submitted information contains information made confidential by law. Thus, except for information protected from disclosure by sections 552.101 and 552.130, you must release the requested information. First, section 552.130 excepts information relating to a driver's license issued by an agency of this state. We have marked the information you must withhold under section 552.130.

Second, the submitted information contains social security numbers. Social security numbers may be withheld in some circumstances under section 552.101 of the Government Code. A social security number or "related record" may be excepted from 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). See Open Records Decision No. 622 (1994). These amendments make confidential social security numbers and related records that are 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 id. We have no basis for concluding that any of the social security numbers in the file are confidential under section 405(c)(2)(C)(viii)(I), and therefore excepted from public disclosure under section 552.101 of the Open Records Act on the basis of that federal provision. We caution, however, that section 552.352 of the Open Records 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 city pursuant to any provision of law, enacted on or after October 1, 1990.

We are resolving this matter with an informal letter ruling rather than with a published open records decision. This ruling is limited to the particular records at issue under the facts presented to us in this request and should not be relied on as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have any questions regarding this ruling, please contact our office.

Sincerely,

Yen-Ha Le
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

YHL/nc

Ref.: ID# 124306

Enclosures: Marked documents

cc: Mr. Doyle Calfey
1013 North Sleepy Hollow
Irving, Texas 75061
(w/o enclosures)


 

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