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October 1, 1999

Mr. James J. Savage
Assistant County Attorney
Harris County
1019 Congress, 15th Floor
Houston, Texas 77002-1700

OR99-2783

Dear Mr. Savage:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 129013.

The Harris County Rabies and Animal Control Office received a request for the name of the person who reported an unleashed animal at the requestor's address. You contend that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with the informer's privilege. You also contend that the information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.108 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and have reviewed the information at issue.

Section 552.101 of the Government Code excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Section 552.101 encompasses the informer's privilege. The informer's privilege has long been recognized by Texas courts. See Aguilar v. State, 444 S.W.2d 935, 937 (Tex. Crim. App. 1969); Hawthorne v. State, 10 S.W.2d 724, 725 (Tex. Crim. App. 1928). It protects from disclosure the identities of persons who report activities over which the governmental body has criminal or quasi-criminal law-enforcement authority, provided that the subject of the information does not already know the informer's identity. Open Records Decision Nos. 515 at 3 (1988), 208 at 1-2 (1978). The informer's privilege protects the identities of individuals who report violations of statutes to the police or similar law-enforcement agencies, as well as those who report violations of statutes with civil or criminal penalties to "administrative officials having a duty of inspection or of law enforcement within their particular spheres." Open Records Decision No. 279 at 2 (1981) (citing Wigmore, Evidence, 2374, at 767 (McNaughton rev. ed. 1961)). In order to protect the complainant's identity, you may withhold the complainant's name, address, and telephone number from disclosure under section 552.101 in conjunction with the informer's privilege.

Because we are able to resolve this matter under section 552.101, we do not address your section 552.108 claim. 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,

Karen E. Hattaway
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

KEH/ch

Ref: ID# 129013

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Anthony Torres
Ms. Virginia Torres
7410 Grackle
Cypress, Texas 77433
(w/o enclosures)


 

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