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Friday, September 4, 2015

Doctors' Salary Information Subject to FOIA

The PAC recently released the 6th binding opinion for 2015.  No surprise, the PAC found the public body in violation of FOIA.  PAC Op. 15-006.

In this case, a requester filed a FOIA request with Franklin Hospital for copies of the employment agreements between the hospital and five doctors. The hospital provided copies of the agreements,  but redacted the doctors' salaries, incentives, and bonuses under the personal privacy and private information exemptions. The hospital also argued in the alternative that because the doctors did not have public duties, the agreements were not public records.  The requester appealed to the PAC.

The PAC first disposed of the hospital's argument that the employment agreements were not public records, finding that Franklin Hospital was an Illinois hospital district expressly defined as a "unit of local government" under state law. As a result, the PAC determined that the doctors, who were employees of the hospital, were performing public duties in providing medical care. Thus, their employment agreements fall within the definition of public record under FOIA.

Second, the PAC analyzed the two cited exemptions, "personal privacy" and "private information." 

The PAC rejected the hospital's argument that the doctors' compensation fell within "personal financial information" that is expressly exempt as "private information."  The PAC did uphold the hospital's redaction of the doctors' home addresses as these are expressly protected as "private information" under FOIA, except for the one address which was a P.O. box.

As to the argument that release of the doctors' compensation is an invasion of personal privacy, the PAC held that because the amount of their compensation "bears on the physicians' public duties as employees" of the hospital, there is no invasion of personal privacy in disclosure of this information. Moreover, the PAC stated that the public's "right to know the purposes for which public funds are expended" would trump any privacy rights the doctors might have.

The PAC ordered the hospital to disclose the compensation information to the requester.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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