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Office of the ATTORNEY GENERAL
GREG ABBOTT
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December 16, 2002

Mr. David Anderson
General Counsel
Office of Legal Services
Texas Education Agency
1701 North Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas 78701-1494

OR2002-7165

Dear Mr. Anderson:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 173761

The Texas Education Agency (the "agency") received a request for attendance records received from the Heritage Academy Charter School (the "school"), documents signed by a named individual for the school, and any reports relating to the school, with attachments. You state that some of the "requested documents are being made available to the requestor." However, you claim that the submitted information is excepted from disclosure under sections 552.116 and 552.136 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the submitted information.(1) We have also considered the comments submitted by the requestor. See Gov't Code 552.304 (providing for submission of public comments.)

Section 552.116 provides as follows:

(a) An audit working paper of an audit of the state auditor or the auditor of a state agency or institution of higher education as defined by Section 61.003, Education Code, is excepted from [public disclosure]. If information in an audit working paper is also maintained in another record, that other record is not excepted from [public disclosure] by this section.

(b) In this section:

(1) 'Audit' means an audit authorized or required by a statute of this state or the United States and includes an investigation.

(2) 'Audit working paper' includes all information, documentary or otherwise, prepared or maintained in conducting an audit or preparing an audit report, including:

(A) intra-agency and interagency communications; and

(B) drafts of the audit report or portions of those drafts.

Gov't Code 552.116. You contend that Exhibit 2 constitutes "audit working papers" that are excepted from disclosure under section 552.116(a) of the Government Code. Based on your representation that the records at issue relate to the agency's audit of the school, as authorized under sections 44.008 and 44.010 of the Education Code, and after our review of the submitted information, we agree that the agency may withhold from disclosure Exhibit 2 pursuant to section 552.116(a).

Next, you contend that account numbers in Exhibit 3 are excepted from disclosure under section 552.136. Section 552.136 provides as follows:

(a) In this section, "access device" means a card, plate, code, account number, personal identification number, electronic serial number, mobile identification number, or other telecommunications service, equipment, or instrument identifier or means of account access that alone or in conjunction with another access device may be used to:

(1) obtain money, goods, services, or another thing of value; or

(2) initiate a transfer of funds other than a transfer originated solely by paper instrument.

(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, a credit card, debit card, charge card, or access device number that is collected, assembled, or maintained by or for a governmental body is confidential.

Gov't Code 552.136. We have marked the information that the department must withhold from disclosure under section 552.136.

In summary, the agency may withhold Exhibit 2 from disclosure based on section 552.116(a), and must withhold the account numbers we have marked in Exhibit 3 based on section 552.136. The remaining information must be released 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 Hadassah Schloss at the Texas Building and Procurement 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. We note that a third party may challenge this ruling by filing suit seeking to withhold information from a requestor. Gov't Code 552.325. 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,

V.G. Schimmel
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division
VGS/sdk
Ref: ID# 173761
Enc: Submitted documents

c: Ms. Susan A. Kidwell
Locke Liddell & Sapp
100 North Congress Avenue, Suite 300
Austin, Texas 78701-4042
(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. We assume that the "representative sample" of records submitted to this office is truly representative of the requested records as a whole. See Open Records Decision Nos. 499 (1988), 497 (1988). This open records letter does not reach, and therefore does not authorize the withholding of, any other requested records to the extent that those records contain substantially different types of information than that submitted to this office.
 

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