|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
June 15, 2000
Ms. Belinda R. Perkins
Dear Ms. Perkins:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 137502.
The Teacher Retirement System of Texas (the "TRS") received a request for all communications within the last year between the agency and its former contractor for the Benefit Systems Transformation and all communications within the last six months between the agency and its teacher and retirees regarding the Benefit Systems Transformation. The requestor also asks for all communications within the last year between the agency and the State Auditor's Office, the Legislative Budget Board and the House and Senate Finance Committees regarding the Benefit Systems Transformation. You assert that you have made a large volume of information available to the requestor and have only requested a decision concerning communications between TRS and the State Auditor's Office. You claim that the submitted information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.116 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
Section 552.116 of the Government Code provides in relevant part:
(a) An audit working paper of an audit of the state auditor or the auditor of a state agency or institution of higher education as defined by Section 61.003, Education Code, is excepted from [required public disclosure]. If information in an audit working paper is also maintained in another record, that other record is not excepted from [required public disclosure] by this section.
(b) In this section:
(1) "Audit" means an audit authorized or required by a statute of this state or the United States and includes an investigation.
(2) "Audit working paper" includes all information, documentary or otherwise, prepared or maintained in conducting an audit or preparing an audit report, including:
(A) intra-agency and interagency communications; and
(B) drafts of the audit report or portions of those drafts.
Gov't Code § 552.116. You assert that submitted documents constitute communications between representatives of the State Auditor's Office and TRS Internal Audit department employees. You state that the representatives of the State Auditor's office are conducting an audit authorized by section 321.013 of the Government Code. Further, you assert that TRS's internal auditors are coordinating and facilitating the external audit by the State Auditor's Office. After reviewing the submitted information and your arguments, we agree that the submitted information constitutes "audit working papers" under section 552.116. Therefore, you may withhold the submitted information under section 552.116 of the Government 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.
Ref: ID# 137502
Encl: Submitted documents
cc: Gaiutra Devi Bahadur
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US