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Office of the ATTORNEY GENERAL
GREG ABBOTT
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December 19, 2002

Ms. Julie Reagan Watson
Assistant General Counsel
Texas Department of Human Services
P.O. Box 149030
Austin, Texas 78714-9030

OR2002-7315

Dear Ms. Watson:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID#173962.

The Texas Department of Human Services (the "department") received a request for "copies of TDHS's contracts for refugee services" with several listed organizations. The request was subsequently narrowed to "only the YMCA contract." Although the department has agreed to release the contracts, you have nonetheless submitted documents relating to the negotiations of the contracts and claim that this information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.110 of the Government Code. Furthermore, you state, and provide documentation showing, that you have notified the YMCA, the third party whose proprietary interests may be implicated by the request for information. 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). However, contrary to the department's statement, the requestor asks for the contracts only, not for information relating to the contracts. Thus, information submitted by the department consisting of the documents relating to the negotiations of the contracts is not responsive to the request. Therefore, we do not address whether the submitted documents are subject to public disclosure and the department is not obligated to release the documents.

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,

Heather Pendleton Ross
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division
HPR/sdk
Ref: ID# 173962
Enc: Submitted documents

c: Mr. Jeffery A. Watkins
Executive Director
YMCA International Services
6300 Westpark, Suite 600
Houston, Texas 77057
(w/o enclosures)


 

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