Employee Applications and Open Records Law
Our cities are presented every day with requests under the Kentucky Open Records Act (KRS 61.870 to 61.884). But just like fashion, the types of requests our cities receive seem to go in and out of style.
The KLC Legal Team noticed recently that there was a large uptick in open records requests pertaining to police officer employment applications. We thought this would be a good time for a quick review on city employee applications, as a whole, and how police officer applications slightly differ under the Kentucky Open Records Act and KRS 15.400.
As an initial step, it is wise to remember that there is a statutory exemption for public records containing information of a personal nature where public disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy. KRS 61.878(1)(a).
So what type of information is of a personal nature when it comes to a city employee's employment application?
In 1993, the Kentucky Attorney General issued an opinion regarding a citizen's request for, among other information, the employment applications and salary history for all city employees.
The Attorney General found the employment applications and salary records to be public records that must be made available for inspection upon request, but held that information “of a purely personal character, including the employee’s home address, social security number, marital status, and medical information” could be redacted. The AG reasoned that “the public has a right to know about that which is related to the governmental employee’s public and work related activities,” including name, position, work station and salary. 93-ORD-2.
It is worth noting that the information of a purely personal character in 93-ORD-2 is NOT exhaustive. State law, court opinions, and other Attorney General opinions often identify other personal information that is exempt from disclosure. Specifically regarding the privacy interests of peace officers, KRS 15.400(3) states, "[t]he Open Records Act notwithstanding, the person's home address, telephone number, date of birth, Social Security number, background investigation, medical examination, psychological examination, and polygraph examination conducted for any person seeking certification pursuant to KRS 15.380 to 15.404 shall not be subject to disclosure."
So in responding to an open records request for a police officer's employment application, it is paramount for the city official responding to keep these exempt items of personal information in mind for redaction purposes. The city, as with any open records request, should also explore if any of the other statutory exemptions allowable under KRS 61.878(1) may also apply.
As always, if you have any questions on this or any other open records requests, please contact the KLC Legal Team at 800.876.4552.