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How to answer an FOIA request for personnel records


ounty personnel records are open to public inspec- tion, except to the extent that release would consti- tute a “a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” of the employee. ACA 25-19-105(b)(12)

FOIA request for personnel records, the files need to be reviewed by the custodian and the affected employee within 24 hours, re- dacted as required by the law, and released within 72 hours in accord with the requirements of Arkansas’ Freedom of Informa- tion Act (and related Attorney General Opinions). If a dispute arises between the custodian and the employee regarding what is or is not “private,” then the part not in dispute should be released within 72 hours and the part in dispute should be submitted to the Attorney General for an opinion. Any needed AG Opinion should be sought within 72 hours.

procedures for notifying an employee when his/her records have been requested. Specifically: “Upon receiving a request for the examination or copying of personnel or evaluation records, the custodian of the records shall determine within 24 hours of the receipt of the request whether the records are exempt from dis- closure and make efforts to the fullest extent possible to notify the person making the request and the subject of the records of that decision. If the subject of the records cannot be contacted in person or by telephone within the 24-hour period, the custodian shall send written notice via overnight mail to the subject of the records at his or her last known address.”

nel record information that would be within the scope of “per- sonal privacy” (and that therefore is not to be disclosed). If a refusal to disclose is challenged, the court will weigh the “public’s right to knowledge of the records ... against an individual’s right to privacy.” See Young v. Rice, 308 Ark. 593, 826 S.W.2d 252 (1992). Arkansas AG Opinions (e.g., AG Ops. 2002-085, 2001- 169, 2001-101, and 2000-168) have determined that exempt information includes, among other things:

• Personal histories • Financial records • Religious affiliation • Insurance coverage • Family information • Alcohol use

• Legitimacy of children • Citizenship

• Medical records • Marital status

• Social Security numbers

• Payroll deducations • Welfare payments

• Home addresses of law enforcement officers

Te “Job Performance and Evaluation Record” Exception: Te FOIA distinguishes between “personnel records” and “job per- formance and evaluation records.” Job performance and evaluation records are not automatically considered personnel records and are not evaluated under the same balancing test. Instead, ACA 25-19- 105(c) (1) & (2) provide: “Notwithstanding subdivision (b)(12)

14 Te “Privacy” Exception: Te FOIA does not list the person- Employee Notification: ACA 25-19-105(c)(3) sets out the How to Determine What to Release: When you receive an

County Law Update

of this section, all employee evaluation or job performance records, including preliminary notes and other materi- als, shall be open to public inspection only upon final administrative resolu- tion of any suspension or termination proceeding at which the records form a basis for the decision to suspend or terminate the employee and if there is a compelling public interest in their disclosure. Any personnel or evalua- tion records exempt from disclosure, under this chapter shall nonetheless be made available to the person about whom the records are maintained or to that person’s designated representative.” Tus, an employee’s job performance and evalua- tion records are exempt from “personnel records” disclosure unless: 1) there is a final administrative resolution on an employee’s ter- mination and/or suspension, 2) the job performance or evaluation records formed a basis for the employee’s termination or suspen- sion, and 3) there is a compelling public interest in disclosing the records. (AG Opinion 2001-001)

Mike Rainwater Risk Management Legal Counsel

cord”: Information that would cause a “clearly unwarranted inva- sion of privacy” or that is an employee’s job performance and evalu- ation record that is not yet a “personnel record” is to be redacted. “Redaction” is the process of blotting out or removing the parts of the documents that are private or non-release-able. When only part of a document is not subject to release, blot out the “private” part by applying Post-it Labeling and Correction Tape and making a pho- tocopy of the redacted version. If an entire document is “private” or non-release-able then redact the whole page, leaving the title of the document for view — producing a page that has some identifying information on it (if possible) but otherwise entirely redacted, mak- ing it clear that a whole page was redacted.

Redact What is “Private” or Non-Release-able “Personnel Re-

left completely blank, include the blank page. All parts not released should be saved in case judicial review is required.

the redacted version of his own personnel records file. If the “re- cords custodian” and the employee disagree about what is and what is not “private” or non-release-able, then an AG Opinion can be obtained, as provided for in the FOI Act.

Employee Participation: Te affected employee should review

Attorney General Opinion / Judicial Review: ACA 25-19- 105(c) provides: “Either the custodian, requester, or the subject of the records may immediately seek an opinion from the Attorney General who shall, within three (3) working days of ... the request shall issue an opinion stating whether the decision is consistent with this chapter. In the event of a review by the Attorney General, the custodian shall not disclose the records until the Attorney Gen- eral has issued his or her opinion. However, nothing in this subsec- tion shall be construed to prevent the requester or the subject of

See “FOIA” on Page 18 >>> COUNTY LINES, SPRING 2015 If a redacted page is

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