A school district received an open records request from a reporter, asking for copies of “any and all current policies and procedures used by HR for employee-related investigations,” including “the actual investigation log.” When responding to this request, the school district sought to withhold a three-page spreadsheet containing information about complaints made against employees over a three-year period. For each complaint, the spreadsheet listed the affected program, the type of complaint, the date the complaint was received, the status of the investigation, the complainant, the employee against whom the allegations were made, the nature of the complaint and any comments. The document was created by a district assistant superintendent.

The district asked the Texas attorney general to find that the document was not subject to disclosure. The AG concluded that the identity of the complainants could not be disclosed, but the rest of the document was subject to disclosure. The school district appealed the ruling to district court, which also ruled that the spreadsheet must be disclosed. The school district then appealed to the court of appeals.

The court of appeals found that the document must be disclosed. The Texas Public Information Act mandates the disclosure of public information, unless the requested information falls into certain exceptions contained in the statute. In order to decline to disclose a document, the district must be able to show why one of those exceptions applies.

The district argued that several of these exceptions applied to this document, including a right to privacy for the individuals identified on the spreadsheet. In making that argument, the district argued that the spreadsheet contained information about matters such as workplace harassment and discrimination, employee romantic affairs and CPS investigations. The district also argued that some of the investigations concluded that the allegations were unfounded and that releasing them on this type of spreadsheet could mislead the public into thinking that this was not the case.

However, the court of appeals found that the information was not protected by the relevant law related to privacy rights and that there were no laws in place that prevent the disclosure of information merely because doing so might portray a person in a “false light.”