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April 26, 2000

Mr. Leonard W. Peck, Jr.
Assistant General Counsel
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Post Office Box 4004
Huntsville, Texas 77342

OR2000-1624

Dear Mr. Peck:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Public Information Act, chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 135330.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice ("TDCJ") received a request for investigation reports made by the internal affairs division of TDCJ concerning a named inmate. You assert that the requested information is excepted from disclosure pursuant to sections 552.107, 552.108, 552.028, and 552.131 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.028 of the Government Code provides:

(a) A governmental body is not required to accept or comply with a request for information from:

(1) an individual who is imprisoned or confined in a correctional facility; or

(2) an agent of that individual, other than that individual's attorney when the attorney is requesting information that is subject to disclosure under this chapter.

(b) This section does not prohibit a governmental body from disclosing to an individual described by Subsection (a)(1), or that individual's agent, information held by the governmental body pertaining to that individual.

The requestor expresses that he is the representative of an individual imprisoned in the TDCJ. You state that although the requestor represents himself as the inmate's agent, he is not an attorney. Therefore, we agree that section 552.028 of the Government Code permits you to decline to accept or comply with the request for information. Pursuant to section 552.028, you may withhold the requested information from the requestor.

Because our determination under section 552.028 is dispositive, we need not address your other claimed exceptions. We note that it is within your discretion to release the requested information. Should you choose to comply with this request for information, you must not release information confidential by law. See Gov't Code 552.352 (prescribing criminal penalties for disclosure of confidential information).

This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and 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,

Julie Reagan Watson
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JRW/cwt

Ref: ID#135330

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Dwight Rawlinson
Texas Prison Labor Union
2121 S. 4th Street
Waco, Texas 76706
(w/o enclosures)


 

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