Click for home page Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
John Cornyn
image
 

September 18, 2000

Mr. Monty Waters
Assistant General Counsel
Office of General Counsel
Texas Department of Health
1100 West 49th Street
Austin, Texas 78756-3199

OR2000-3596

Dear Mr. Waters:

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# 139319.

The Texas Department of Health (the "department") received a request for information relating to TDH complaint number 100971.(1) You claim that the information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim as well as arguments presented by the requestor, and have reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure "information considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision." This section encompasses information protected by other statutes. Section 81.046 of the Health and Safety Code provides, in pertinent part:

  • Reports, records, and information furnished to a health authority or the department that relate to cases or suspected cases of diseases or health conditions are confidential and may be used only for the purposes of this chapter.
  • Reports, records, and information relating to cases or suspected cases of diseases or health conditions are not public information under Chapter 552, Government Code, and may not be released or made public on subpoena or otherwise except as provided by Subsection (c) and (d).

. . .

Health & Safety Code 81.046(a), (b). After review of the submitted information, we conclude that the documents at issue fall within the scope of section 81.046. Further, none of the section's permissive release provisions appear to apply in the instant case. As such, the department must withhold the requested information under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 81.046 of the Health and Safety Code. Because this provision is dispositive, we do not address your other arguments.

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).

Please remember that under the Act the release of information triggers certain procedures for costs and charges to the requestor. If records are released in compliance with this ruling, be sure that all charges for the information are at or below the legal amounts. Questions or complaints about over-charging must be directed to the General Services Commission at 512/475-2497.

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,

Amanda Crawford
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

AEC/er

Ref: ID# 139319

Encl: Submitted documents

cc: Ms. Cheryl L. Mann
Baker Botts L.L.P.
2001 Ross Avenue
Dallas, Texas 75201-2980
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. The initial request also encompassed third party information that may be proprietary in nature. Both the department and the requestor inform us that this portion of the request has been withdrawn. As such, we do not address the department's claims under section 552.110 of the Government Code.
 

POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US
An Equal Employment Opportunity Employer


Home | ORLs