|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
August 9, 2000
Mr. John Steiner
Dear Mr. Steiner:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 137872.
The City of Austin (the "city") received a request for the names of all officers involved in a particular incident. You have supplied information which you consider to be responsive to this request. You claim that the submitted information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.103 and 552.108 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.
We first note that "front page" information about a crime or arrest is expressly made public by court decision. Houston Chronicle Publishing Co. v. City of Houston, 531 S.W.2d 177 (Tex. Civ. App. --Houston [14th Dist.] 1975), writ ref'd n.r.e. per curiam, 536 S.W.2d 559 (Tex. 1976). This office summarized the types of information made public under Houston Chronicle. Open Records Decision No. 127 (1976). This information includes a detailed description of the offense, time and location of the crime, identity of persons arrested, identity of the complainant and identity of the investigating officers. Id. We consider this information to be included in the section 552.108(c) "basic" information that is not subject to exception by section 552.108. Id. Further, as this information is made public by the courts, it is not excepted from disclosure by Government Code section 552.103. Open Records Decision No. 362 (1983).
Here, the requestor seeks only "the names of all the officers" i.e. the identity of the investigating officers.(1) As neither section 552.103 nor section 552.108 excepts this information from disclosure, this information must be released. Additional information on the submitted materials need not be released, as that information is not responsive to this request.
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.
Michael Jay Burns
Ref: ID# 137872
Encl Submitted documents
cc: Mr. Rhett Webster Pease
1. The requestor also poses questions, however the Public Information Act doesn't require a governmental body to answer factual questions. Open Records Decision No 555 (1990). Nor does it require a governmental body to perform legal research. Open Records Decision No. 563 (1990).
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