Judge orders release of city manager applicants' 'private' records

Freedom of Information | Feature | October 21, 1996

Judge orders release of city manager applicants' 'private' records


UTAH--The public's interest in seeing the applications of four finalists for the Orem city manager post outweighs any privacy interest they might have and must be disclosed to the Provo Daily Herald, a state District Court judge in Provo ruled in late September.

Judge Anthony Schofield cited a clause in Utah's law that allows the court to order disclosure of records even when they are properly classified as private, controlled or protected if the public's interest in access outweighs the interest in restricting access.

The Governmental Records Access and Management Act of 1991 grants public access to all records not classified as private, controlled or protected. It specifically allows the government to classify as private information on a current or former employee or an applicant for employment.

However, Schofield said that in denying the records Orem "directly and negatively" affected the public's ability to be involved in the selection process since city residents could not evaluate for themselves the merit of the applicants and pass those conclusions on to their elected representatives.

Orem began searching for a new city manager in May 1994 and received 157 applications. A screening committee in July 1994 narrowed the field first to 16 semi-finalists and then to four finalists, two of whom were later replaced so that a total of six finalists were considered at different times.

In August 1994 the Daily Herald requested and was denied application information on the six finalists.

In revoking the denial the judge noted that finalists were never promised confidentiality and that they were interviewed by business and community leaders chosen by the Orem City Council. (Scripps League Newspapers v. City of Orem; Media Counsel: Jeffrey Hunt, Salt Lake City)