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October 6, 2000

Ms. Lamis A. Safa
Assistant City Attorney
Legal Department
City of Houston
P.O. Box 1562
Houston, Texas 77251-1562

OR2000-3865

Dear Ms. Safa:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 140206.

The City of Houston (the "city") received a request for a copy of a specified 911 tape. You claim that the requested information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 773.091 of the Health and Safety Code. We have considered the exception you claim and 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 statute. Section 773.091 of the Health and Safety Code provides in part:

(a) A communication between certified emergency medical services personnel or a physician providing medical supervision and a patient that is made in the course of providing emergency medical services to the patient is confidential and privileged and may not be disclosed except as provided by this chapter.

(b) Records of the identity, evaluation, or treatment of a patient by emergency medical services personnel or by a physician providing medical supervision that are created by the emergency medical services personnel or physician or maintained by an emergency medical services provider are confidential and privileged and may not be disclosed except as provided by this chapter.

You state that the 911 tape consists of a communication between a certified emergency medical dispatcher of the Houston Fire Department and the patient's spouse. After reviewing the 911 tape, we agree that the tape contains communications between emergency medical services personnel and a patient, via the patient's spouse, that were made in the course of providing emergency medical services to the patient. Therefore, the 911 tape is subject to section 773.091(a) of the Health and Safety Code. You inform us that the patient or his authorized representative has not given written consent to release of the 911 tape under section 773.093 of the Health and Safety Code. Accordingly, the 911 tape is confidential under section 552.101 in conjunction with section 773.091 and must be withheld.

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,

Jennifer Bialek
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JHB\er

Ref: ID# 140206

Encl: Submitted tape

cc: Ms. Shern-Min Chow
KHOU-TV 11
P.O. Box 11
Houston, Texas 77001-0011
(w/o enclosures)


 

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