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August 9, 1999

Ms. Sara Hartin
City Attorney, Copperas Cove
P.O. Drawer 1449
Copperas Cove, Texas 76522

OR99-2227

Dear Ms. Hartin:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 127801.

The City of Copperas Cove (the "city") received a request for a certain police report. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108(a)(1) of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Initially, we note that some of the submitted documents are court records. Documents filed with the court are public documents and must be released. See Star-Telegram, Inc. v. Walker, 834 S.W.2d 54, 57-58 (Tex. 1992).

We also note that some of the information you submitted for our inspection consists of municipal ordinances and an agenda item posting from city council meetings. These ordinances, if adopted by the cities and the agenda posting, must be disclosed. Open Records Decision Nos. 551 at 2-3 (1990) (laws or ordinances are open records), 221 at 1 (1979) ("official records of the public proceedings of a governmental body are among the most open of records").

As for the remainder of the documents, section 552.108 of the Government Code provides in part:

(a) Information held by a law enforcement agency or prosecutor that deals with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime is excepted from the requirements of Section 552.021 if:

(1) release of the information would interfere with the detection, investigation, or prosecution of crime[.]

* * *

(c) This section does not except from the requirements of Section 552.021 information that is basic information about an arrested person, an arrest, or a crime.

Gov't Code 552.108.

Generally, a governmental body claiming an exception under section 552.108 must reasonably explain, if the information does not supply the explanation on its face, how and why the release of the requested information would interfere with law enforcement. See Gov't Code 552.108(a)(1), (b)(1), .301(b)(1); see also Ex parte Pruitt, 551 S.W.2d 706 (Tex. 1977). The exhibits you have submitted and your explanation show that the requested information concerns a pending investigation and possible prosecution of a crime.

We find that you have shown that, as to these documents, the release of the requested information would interfere with the detection, investigation or prosecution of crime. See Houston Chronicle Publ'g Co. v. City of Houston, 531 S.W.2d 177 (Tex. Civ. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 1975), writ ref'd n.r.e. per curiam, 536 S.W.2d 559 (Tex. 1976) (court delineates law enforcement interests that are present in active cases), Open Records Decision No. 216 (1978). We therefore conclude that section 552.108 of the Government Code excepts the requested records from required public disclosure, although you may choose to release all or part of the information at issue that is not otherwise confidential by law. Gov't Code 552.007.

We note, however, that information normally found on the front page of an offense report is generally considered public. Houston Chronicle Publ'g Co. v. City of Houston, 531 S.W.2d 177 (Tex. Civ. App.--Houston [14th Dist.] 1975), writ ref'd n.r.e. per curiam, 536 S.W.2d 559 (Tex. 1976), Open Records Decision No. 127 (1976). Thus, you must release the type of information that is considered to be front page offense report information, even if this information is not actually located on the front page of the offense report. Gov't Code 552.108(c); see Open Records Decision No. 127 (1976) (summarizing the types of information deemed public by Houston Chronicle). You indicate that the city has already released "basic information" concerning the offense.

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 upon as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have questions about this ruling, please contact our office.

Sincerely,

Sue M. Lee
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

SML\nc

Ref: ID#127801

encl: Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Frank DiMuccio, Jr.
Cove Feed & Seed
2314 East Highway 190
Copperas Cove, Texas 76522
(w/o enclosures)


 

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