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October 12, 1999

Ms. Tenley Aldredge
Assistant County Attorney
County of Travis
P.O. Box 1748
Austin, Texas 78767

OR99-2910

Dear Ms. Aldredge:

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# 128358.

Travis County ( the "county") received a request for "information or circumstances relevant to environmental concerns bearing on segment 3 of proposed State Highway 45 or its impacts, whether direct, indirect, secondary, or cumulative, since August 18, 1989." You state that the county has released to the requestor the majority of the requested information. You assert that certain documents are excepted from required public disclosure based on Government Code sections 552.105, 552.107(1) and 552.111. You have submitted to this office the information you seek to withhold from disclosure. In the case of the right-of-way acquisition documents, you have submitted a representative sample of the information.(1)

Section 552.105(1) of the Government Code excepts from disclosure "information related to the location of real or personal property for a public purpose prior to public announcement of the project." This exception protects a governmental body's planning and negotiating position with respect to certain real or personal property transactions. See Open Records Decision No. 564 (1990). Generally, the protection of section 552.105 expires at the conclusion of the transaction. See Open Records Decision No. 222 (1979). When a governmental body has made a good faith determination that the release of information would damage its negotiating position with respect to the acquisition of property, the attorney general will accept that determination, unless the records or the information show the contrary as a matter of law. See Open Records Decision No. 564 (1990) (construing statutory predecessor).

You state that the county will not oppose the release of the right-of-way acquisition records once the acquisition process is completed. You argue that representatives of the county's Transportation and Natural Resources Department ("TNR") believe that "release of any or all of these documents at this time would jeopardize TNR's ability to effectively negotiate for the acquisition of these right-of-way parcels" and "impact TNR's ability to carry out the condemnation process." You also argue that the release of other responsive documents would present negotiating difficulties for TNR. We have reviewed the submitted documents and considered your arguments. We conclude that, with the exception of several marked documents, the county may withhold the information from public disclosure at this time based on section 552.105(a).

Section 552.111 of the Government Code excepts from required public disclosure:

An interagency or intraagency memorandum or letter that would not be available by law to a party in litigation with the agency.

This exception applies to a governmental body's internal communications consisting of advice, recommendations, or opinions reflecting the policymaking process of the governmental body at issue. See Open Records Decision No. 615 (1993). An agency's policymaking function, 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. See id. at 5-6; see also Garland v. Dallas Morning News, No. 05-95-01350-CV (Tex. App.-Dallas May 13, 1998, n.w.h.) (citing Lett v. Klein Indep. Sch. Dist., 917 S.W.2d 455, 457 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1996), writ denied per curiam, 41. Tex. Sup Ct. J. 575 (1998) (documents relating to problems with specific employee do not relate to the making of new policy but merely implement existing policy). We have marked the information that the county may withhold from public disclosure based on section 552.111.

You raise section 552.107(1) for one submitted document. However, we need not consider this claim, as we have already determined that section 552.105(a) applies to this document.

We are resolving this matter with this 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 may not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have questions about this ruling, please contact our office.

Sincerely,

Kay H. Hastings
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

KHH/nc

Ref.: ID# 128358

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Grant Godfrey
Save Our Springs Alliance
P.O. Box 684881
Austin, Texas 78768
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. In reaching our conclusion here, we assume that the "representative sample" of records submitted to this office is truly representative of the requested records as a whole. See Open Records Decision Nos. 499 (1988), 497 (1988) (where requested documents are numerous and repetitive, governmental body should submit representative sample; but if each record contains substantially different information, all must be submitted). This open records letter does not reach, and therefore does not authorize the withholding of any other requested records to the extent that those records contain substantially different types of information than that submitted to this office.
 

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