Federal project payroll records ordered disclosed to union
WYOMING–The Wyoming Department of Transportation must release names and addresses of private individuals on its payroll records for federal aid projects, the state’s high court in Cheyenne ruled in late December.
In affirming a ruling by the District Court in Laramie, the high court said the agency must release the records to a local of the International Union of Operating Engineers.
The court rejected an argument by the agency that release of names and addresses would intrude upon personal privacy. It noted that Wyoming has no personal privacy exemption to its public records act comparable to the exemption in the federal Freedom of Information Act, but even if it did, the public benefit of disclosure would outweigh privacy interests.
Even if the union used the records to contact individuals in their homes, there is no indication that personal privacy would be significantly disrupted, the court said.
It said that the public’s interest in the information outweighed any privacy interest because it could be used to audit the contractors’ efforts to comply with federal and state requirements for a prevailing wage rate from the contractors.
The court also rejected the agency’s claim that the names and addresses would fall within a prohibition in the state public records act against release of “sociological” information, and its argument that release would possibly violate U.S. Labor Department “standards” against the release of names and addresses.
The court said that Wyoming’s public records act must be read in light of a legislative presumption of openness and in keeping with a constitutional right of access to public records.
The agency had also denied release of social security numbers and deductions listed on the payroll records, but the union did not appeal those deletions. (Wyoming Department of Transportation v. International Union of Operating Engineers; Union Attorney: David Evans, Cheyenne)