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October 23, 2000

Mr. Ron M. Pigott
Assistant General Counsel
Texas Health and Human Services Commission
P. O. Box 13247
Austin, Texas 78711

OR2000-4103

Dear Mr. Pigott:

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#140791.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (the "commission") received a request for the "winning response to [the commission's] Children's Health Insurance Program advertising and public relations RFP (proposal submitted by Sherry Matthews advertising and Public Relations )."(1) You advise the requested information may involve the proprietary interests of Sherry Matthews, Inc. ("Matthews"). Section 552.305(d) requires the commission to notify a third party of the request for an attorney general decision. You state that you have notified Matthews of the request. See Gov't Code 552.305 (permitting interested third party to submit to attorney general reasons why requested information should not be released); Open Records Decision No. 542 (1990) (determining that statutory predecessor to Gov't Code 552.305 permits governmental body to rely on interested third party to raise and explain applicability of exception in Public Information Act in certain circumstances).

Matthews has not submitted to this office reasons explaining why the requested information should not be released. Therefore, we have no basis to conclude that the responsive information is excepted from disclosure. See Gov't Code 552.110(b) (to prevent disclosure of commercial or financial information, party must show by specific factual or evidentiary material, not conclusory or generalized allegations, that it actually faces competition and that substantial competitive injury would likely result from disclosure); Open Records Decision Nos. 552 at 5 (1990) (party must establish prima facie case that information is trade secret), 542 at 3 (1990). Thus, the commission must release the requested information to the requestor.

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,

Julie Reagan Watson
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JRW/pr

Ref: ID# 140791

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Ms. Erica Hess
Fleishman-Hillard, Inc.
International Communications
1005 Congress, Suite 1000
Austin, Texas 78701-2415
(w/o enclosures)

Ms. Sherry Matthews
Sherry Matthews, Inc.
101 San Jacinto Boulevard
Austin, Texas 78701
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. The requestor also asks for the "winning response to HHSC's Shots for Tots advertising and public relations RFP (proposal submitted by Sherry Matthews Advertising and Public Relations)." By your letter dated August 29, 2000, you have informed the requestor that the commission does not possess this information and that it has forwarded this portion of the request to the Texas Department of Health.
 

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