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September 29, 1999

Mr. John M. Hill
Cowles & Thompson
901 Main Street, Suite 4000
Dallas, Texas 75202-3793

OR99-2750

Dear Mr. Hill:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 127652.

The City of Colony (the "city"), which you represent, received a request for ten specified items of correspondence. You claim that some of the requested information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101, 552.107 and 552.111 of the Government Code. You have submitted the information that you seek to withhold to this office for review. We have considered the pertinent exceptions and reviewed the submitted information.(1)

Section 552.107(1) excepts information from disclosure if it is information that the attorney general or an attorney of a political subdivision is prohibited from disclosing because of a duty to the client under the Texas Rules of Civil Evidence, the Texas Rules of Criminal Evidence, or the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. This exception does not apply to all client information held by a governmental body's attorney; rather, it excepts from public disclosure only "privileged information," i.e. communications made to the attorney in confidence and in furtherance of rendering professional services or that reveal the attorney's legal opinion or advice. Open Records Decision Nos. 589 at 1(1991), 574 at 3 (1990), 462 at 9-11(1987). Information gathered by an attorney as a fact-finder, purely factual information, and the factual recounting of events including the documentation of calls made, meetings attended, and memos sent, are not excepted from disclosure by section 552.107(1). Open Records Decision No. 574 (1990).

Section 552.111 excepts "[a]n interagency or intraagency memorandum or letter that would not be available by law to a party in litigation with the agency." In Open Records Decision No. 615 (1993), this office concluded that section 552.111 excepts from required public disclosure only those internal communications consisting of advice, recommendations, opinions, and other material reflecting the policymaking processes of the governmental body. An agency's policymaking functions, however, do not encompass internal administrative or personnel matters; disclosure of information relating to such matters will not inhibit free discussion among agency personnel as to policy issues. Id. at 5. In addition, section 552.111 does not except from disclosure purely factual information that is severable from the opinion portions of internal memoranda. Id.

You also contend that a portion of the information is protected as attorney work-product. The first requirement that must be met to consider information "attorney work product" is that the information must have been created for trial or in anticipation of litigation. In order for this office to conclude that information was created in anticipation of litigation, we must be satisfied that

a) a reasonable person would have concluded from the totality of the circumstances surrounding the investigation that there was a substantial chance that litigation would ensue; and b) the party resisting discovery believed in good faith that there was a substantial chance that litigation would ensue and conducted the investigation for the purpose of preparing for such litigation.

See National Tank v. Brotherton, 851 S.W.2d 193, 207 (Tex. 1993). A "substantial chance" of litigation does not mean a statistical probability, but rather "that litigation is more than merely an abstract possibility or unwarranted fear." Id. at 204. In this case, you have alleged no facts which would tend to demonstrate that litigation is pending or anticipated. Therefore, no information may be withheld as attorney work-product. Also note that factual information is not excepted from disclosure under either section 552.107 or 552.111. We have bracketed the information that may be withheld under section 552.107. The remaining information must be released.

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,

Michael Jay Burns
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

MJB/ljp

Ref: ID# 127652

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Bruce Scofield
4517 Newport
The Colony, Texas 75056
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. You assert that certain information may be excepted by Government Code sections 552.101 and 552.107 by the attorney-client privilege. As this privilege is more properly addressed under section 552.107, we do not address Government Code section 552.101.
 

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