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January 5, 2000

Mr. John S. Aldridge
Walsh, Anderson, Brown, Schulze & Aldridge, P.C.
Attorney at Law
Post Office Box 2156
Austin, Texas 78768

OR2000-0045

Dear Mr. Aldridge:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Open Records Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 131560.

The Hawkins Independent School District (the "district") received a request for the names and qualifications of the six finalists for the position of superintendent. You assert that you have given the requestor the names of the two finalists and you seek to withhold the requested information for the remaining applicants under section 552.126 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted representative sample of information.(1)

Section 552.126 excepts from disclosure the "name of an applicant for the position of superintendent of a public school district . . . except that the board of trustees must give public notice of the name or names of the finalists being considered for the position at least 21 days" before a vote or final action is taken. You indicate that the board has already given public notice of the identity of the two finalists for school district superintendent. You further state that the remaining four applicants are non-finalists. Although the requestor contends that the district has six finalists for superintendent, the official minutes of the board of trustees contains the names of two finalists for school district superintendent which the district has already released. Under section 552.126, the district must release the names of the two finalists for the position of school district superintendent. However, the names of the remaining applicants for the position of superintendent are excepted from disclosure. Thus, you may withhold the information pertaining to the applicants for the position of superintendent.

This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and limited to the facts as presented to us; therefore, this ruling must not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records or any other circumstances.

This ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor. For example, governmental bodies are prohibited from asking the attorney general to reconsider this ruling. Gov't Code 552.301(f). If the governmental body wants to challenge this ruling, the governmental body must appeal by filing suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. 552.324(b). In order to get the full benefit of such an appeal, the governmental body must file suit within 10 calendar days. Id. 552.353(b)(3), (c). If the governmental body does not appeal this ruling and the governmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the attorney general have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce this ruling. Id. 552.321(a).

If this ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. Based on the statute, the attorney general expects that, within 10 calendar days of this ruling, the governmental body will do one of the following three things: 1) release the public records; 2) notify the requestor of the exact day, time, and place that copies of the records will be provided or that the records can be inspected; or 3) notify the requestor of the governmental body's intent to challenge this letter ruling in court. If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things within 10 calendar days of this ruling, then the requestor should report that failure to the attorney general's Open Government Hotline, toll free, at 877/673-6839. The requestor may also file a complaint with the district or county attorney. Id. 552.3215(e).

If this ruling requires or permits the governmental body to withhold all or some of the requested information, the requestor can appeal that decision by suing the governmental body. Id. 552.321(a); Texas Department of Public Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App.-Austin 1992, no writ).

If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the attorney general prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of this ruling.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Bialek
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JHB/cwt

Ref: ID# 131560

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Dave Berry
Managing Editor
T. B. Butler Publishing Co., Inc.
Post Office Box 2030
Tyler, Texas 75710-2030
(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). 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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