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May 18, 2000

Mr. Craig H. Smith
Deputy General Counsel
Texas Workers' Compensation Commission
Southfield Building, MS-4D
4000 South IH 35
Austin, Texas 78704-7491

OR2000-1974

Dear Mr. Smith:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under the Public Information Act (the "Act"), chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 135893.

The Texas Workers' Compensation Commission (the "commission") received a request for all information relating to two named individuals, including complaints, violations and the status of violations, and whether those individuals are on the designated doctor list, have been used as a designated doctor by the commission, or have signed any documentation as a doctor of medicine or philosophy. You inform this office that a portion of the requested information has been released. You claim that the balance of the requested information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101, 552.108, and 552.111 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and have reviewed the information you submitted.

Section 552.101 of the Act excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." Gov't Code 552.101. Statutory confidentiality under section 552.101 generally requires express language providing that certain information is confidential or stating that it shall not be released to the public. See Open Records Decision No. 478 at 2 (1987). You assert that the information that you seek to withhold is confidential under section 402.092 of the Labor Code. Section 402.092 provides in relevant part:

(a) Information maintained in the investigation files of the commission is confidential and may not be disclosed except:

(1) in a criminal proceeding;

(2) in a hearing conducted by the commission;

(3) on a judicial determination of good cause; or

(4) to a governmental agency, political subdivision, or regulatory body if the disclosure is necessary or proper for the enforcement of the laws of this or another state or of the United States.

(b) Commission investigation files are not open records for purposes of Chapter 552, Government Code.

(d) For purposes of this section, "investigation file" means any information compiled or maintained by the commission with respect to a commission investigation authorized by law.

Labor Code 402.092. You explain that the commission maintains investigation files under sections 414.002, 414.005, and 414.007 of the Labor Code, which authorize the maintenance of an investigation unit to conduct investigations relating to alleged violations of the Texas Workers' Compensation Act, subtitle A of title 5 of the Labor Code, and the commission's administrative rules. You indicate that the submitted information represents investigation files that concern the possible violation of the Labor Code, the Workers' Compensation Act, and the commission's rules. You claim that the contents of the submitted files are confidential under section 402.092. Based on your representations and our review of the submitted information, we agree that it constitutes investigation files that are confidential under section 402.092 of the Labor Code. Therefore, the commission must withhold the submitted investigation files from disclosure pursuant to section 552.101 of the Government Code.

As we are able to make a determination under section 552.101, we do not address your claims under sections 552.108 and 552.111 of the Act. 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,

James W. Morris, III
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JWM/ljp

Ref: ID# 135893

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Ms. Becky Oliver
Fox4 Texas
400 North Griffin
Dallas, Texas 75202
(w/o enclosures)


 

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