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September 26, 2000

Mr. James L. Hall
Assistant General Counsel
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
P.O. Box 4004
Huntsville, Texas 77342

OR2000-3711

Dear Mr. Hall:

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# 139386.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (the "department") received a request for arrest records, police reports, and other information relating to one of its employees. You have submitted information that the department deems to be responsive to the request. You claim that the submitted information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.101, 552.107, 552.108, and 552.131 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and have reviewed the submitted information. We also received and have considered the requestor's comments.

Section 552.131 of the Government Code relates to inmates of the department.(1) Section 552.131 provides in relevant part:

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b) or by Section 552.029 [of the Government Code], information obtained or maintained by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is excepted from [required public disclosure] if it is information about an inmate who is confined in a facility operated by or under a contract with the department.

Gov't Code 552.131(a). Section 552.029 of the Government Code provides in relevant part that notwithstanding section 552.131, eight specified categories of information about an inmate confined in a facility operated by or under a contract with the department are subject to required disclosure. Thus, the legislature explicitly made section 552.131 subject to section 552.029.

In this instance, you inform this office that the information in question represents information about an inmate named Gerald Merritt. You assert that the requested information is not subject to release under section 552.029 and therefore is excepted from disclosure under section 552.131(a). The requestor informs us that inmate Merritt is "a person totally unknown to me and whose problem or whatever I assure you has no connection with me or the information I requested as far as I am aware." Upon careful review of the information in question, we find that it consists of "information about an inmate" under section 552.131(a). We further find that the requested information does not fall within any of the categories of information that are subject to disclosure under section 552.029. We therefore conclude that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.131(a) of the Government Code. Accordingly, we need not consider the department's claims under sections 552.101, 552.107, and 552.108.

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,


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

JWM/ljp

Ref: ID# 139386

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Gordon S. Clark
Route 2, box 2560
Eastland, Texas 76448
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. As of the date of this letter ruling, four different sections of the Act were denominated as section 552.131. Sections 552.131 and 552.029, relating to inmates of the department, were added to chapter 552 of the Government Code by the Act of May 26, 1999, 76th Leg., R.S., ch. 783, 1, 2, 1999 Tex. Gen. Laws 3407-08.
 

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