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To what extent are records relating to public employees available for public inspection?

Question: 

To what extent are records relating to public employees available for public inspection?

Answer: 

Exemption 22.7(11) by its terms shields only “personal information in confidential personnel records” from disclosure. In Des Moines Independent Community School District Public Records v. Des Moines Register & Tribune Co., 487 N.W.2d 666 (Iowa 1992), this exemption was analyzed by the Court with mixed results.
 

The Court first stated that a settlement agreement under which public funds were paid to a former school principal must be disclosed even though the agreement related to a personnel matter and its express terms called for confidentiality. However, the Court gave wide latitude to the trial court’s interpretation of exemption 22.7(11). The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court determination that information gathered by an in-house investigative committee in connection with complaints of racism and sexism was contained in “job-performance” documents that the Legislature intended to remain secret.

The Supreme Court thereby, in this case, upheld the trial court’s interpretation that “personal information in confidential records” was not limited to “personal” data and could be extended to records not contained in a personnel file. This approval of the apparent extension of 22.7(11) to “job performance” information may be used by government agencies to keep many aspects of job performance and evaluation information secret unless the General Assembly takes action to narrow this interpretation of the exemption. The case, however, does nothing to affect long-standing standards of public access to salary information, and other records not directly related to job evaluation.

In Clymer v. City of Cedar Rapids, 601 N.W.2d 42 (Iowa 1999), the Supreme Court further addressed what personal information about a public employee is a matter of public record. The Court ruled that the public should have access to information concerning a public employee’s sick leave benefits — including pay, dates taken and hours accrued. (It is likely, however, that additional information about an employee’s medical condition, including the reason for using sick leave, remains “personal information.”) Other payroll information that a governmental body may release includes the employee’s full name, department, job title, hire date, bargaining unit, and complete and detailed information about monetary compensation. However, the employee’s gender, home address and birth date are personal and may be kept confidential.


In 2011, the Legislature amended Chapter 22.7(11) to require government agencies to release details of employees' compensation and terms of employment; the dates of employment and positions held, and resume-type information.

In 2017, the Iowa Legislature added new sections concerning the release of additional information when an individual resigned in lieu of termination, was discharged, or was demoted as a result of a disciplinary action.  In those situations, the government body must also release the “documented reasons and rationale” for the action. The IPIB issued advisory opinion 2018-08 which states:

“In order to meet the new requirement in 22.7(11)(a)(5), government bodies must say which law, rule, or policy, if any, they believe the employee violated and provide at least one sentence about the behavior or incident that triggered the action.  The explanation should include details, such as the date(s) of alleged behavior, location, and how it was discovered.”

Printed from the website on December 04, 2020 at 1:39am.