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October 31, 2000

Ms. Stacy Tuer Castillo
Walsh, Anderson, Brown, Schulze & Aldridge, P.C.
Attorneys At Law
P. O. Box 460606
San Antonio, Texas 78246-0606

OR2000-4219

Dear Ms. Castillo:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 142437.

The Columbus Independent School District (the "district"), which you represent, received a request for the amount the district paid for attorney fees during the last school year. The district received a second request in which the requestor asked for attorney fee information such as the dates and amounts of total expenditures. You claim that portions of the requested information are excepted from disclosure under section 552.107 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted information.

Section 552.022(a) provides in pertinent part:

Without limiting the amount or kind of information that is public information under this chapter, the following categories of information are public information and not excepted from required disclosure under this chapter unless they are expressly confidential under other law:

(16) information that is in a bill for attorney's fees and that is not privileged under the attorney-client privilege[.]

In this instance, the requesters only ask for the dates and the amount of money spent on attorney's fees. Based on the wording of the request, we believe that only the expenditures and the dates are responsive to the requests and not the description of services for which you claim the attorney-client privilege. Pursuant to section 552.022(a)(16), the dates and the amount of attorney's fees are not excepted under section 552.107. Because information that you ask to withhold under section 552.107 is not responsive to the requests, we do not address the applicability of section 552.107. Thus, you need only release the monthly "summary of current billing" in order to comply with the requests.

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/seg

Ref: ID# 142437

Encl. Submitted documents

cc: Ms. Cindy Alford
816 Wallace
Columbus, Texas 78934
(w/o enclosures)

Ms. Mollie Walker
Director of Special Education
Colorado County Education Cooperative
816 Wallace
Columbus, Texas 78934
(w/o enclosures)


 

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