An individual filed a FOIA request asking for a copy of the completed employment application and resume for a village employee. The village denied the request, citing a variety of FOIA exemptions, including section 7(1)(c) (personal information) and section 7.5(q) (information prohibited from disclosure under the Personnel Records Review Act). The requester appealed, and in a recent binding opinion, the Public Access Counselor found the village in violation of FOIA. PAC Op. 14-015.
The village first argued that the information contained with the employee's resume and employment application did not "pertain to the public duties of public employees," so was not subject to release under FOIA. The village cited a variety of cases to support its argument that personnel records are exempt from release under FOIA. The PAC rejected the village's argument, however, finding that those cases were based on the exemptions contained in FOIA prior to 2010 when the legislature eliminated the per se exemption for personnel records. The PAC interpreted the current law to require the village to demonstrate that release of these personnel records would be a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy of the employee that outweighs any public right to disclosure. The PAC determined that the "compelling public interest" in disclosure of a public employee's work experience, education, and credentials so the public can assess the employee's qualifications to perform his or her job outweighed the employee's privacy rights.
The PAC also rejected the village's second argument, that the information was exempt under the personnel records review statute. The PAC noted that there is no provision in that law prohibiting a public body from disclosing resumes or employment applications.
Third, the village argued that the records were exempt under 7(1)(f), as "inter- and intra-agency predecisional and deliberative material" because the records were used solely to assist the village in its deliberative process in considering and selecting the employee. The PAC rejected that argument as well, finding that purely factual material does not fall within this exemption.
Finally, the village argued that the records contained certain information that falls within the "private information" exemption under 7(1)(b) of FOIA. The PAC responded that this information can be redacted, but the remainder of the records must be released.
The PAC concluded that the village must provide the resume and employment application to the requester, with proper redactions to protect the employee's private information, including his signature on the application.
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf