|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
May 9, 2000
Ms. Katherine Minter Cary
Dear Ms. Cary:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 135819.
The Office of the Attorney General (the "attorney general") received a request for a particular child support case file. You have released some information responsive to the request. You contend, however, that the remaining responsive information is excepted from public disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code. You have provided for our review representative samples of the information you assert is excepted from disclosure, marked as exhibits C through H.(1)
Section 552.101 of the Government Code excepts from required public disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Gov't Code § 552.101. This exception includes information made confidential by other statutes. Chapter 231 of the Family Code pertains to the administration of Title IV-D child support programs. Chapter 231 contains the following provisions, stated in relevant part:
Sec. 231.001. DESIGNATION OF TITLE IV-D AGENCY.
The office of the attorney general is designated as the state's Title IV-D agency.
Sec. 231.108. CONFIDENTIALITY OF RECORDS AND PRIVILEGED COMMUNICATIONS
(a) Except as provided by Subsection (c), all files and records of services provided under this chapter, including information concerning a custodial parent, noncustodial parent, child, and an alleged or presumed father, are confidential.
(c) The Title IV-D agency may use or release information from the files and records, including information that results from a communication made by a recipient of financial assistance under Chapter 31, Human Resources Code, or by an applicant for or recipient of services under this chapter, for purposes directly connected with the administration of the child support, paternity determination, parent locator, or aid to families with dependent children programs. The Title IV-D agency may release information from the files and records to a consumer reporting agency in accordance with Section 231.114.
Exhibits C through H consist of records generated in rendering services under Title IV-D child support programs, and are thus made confidential by subsection 231.108(a) of the Family Code. The attorney general is accordingly authorized to release this information only for the purposes designated under the above-cited subsection 231.108(c). In this instance, we have no information to allow us to conclude that the requested release is for one of these designated purposes. Therefore, we conclude that the information in exhibits C through H must not be released to the requestor, as this information is excepted from disclosure by section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with Chapter 231 of the Family Code.
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.
Noelle C. Letteri
Ref: ID# 135819
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Larry Shelton
1. 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). Here, we do not address any other requested records to the extent that those records contain substantially different types of information than those submitted to this office.
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