|NMU||CALIFORNIA||Freedom of Information|
Judge requires release of former school official’s personnel records
- A California newspaper wins access to personnel files chronicling the disciplinary action taken against a former middle school vice principal.
Sep. 9, 2003 — Portions of the personnel records of a former middle school vice principal, suspected in the murder of his wife, mother-in-law and three children, must be released to a local newspaper, a California Superior Court judge ruled last Friday.
After repeatedly requesting the personnel files of Vincent Brothers, a 14-year employee of the Bakersfield City School District, The Bakersfield Californian filed a lawsuit in late July under the state’s Public Records Act. In his Sept. 5 ruling, Superior Court Judge Kenneth Twisselman II ordered the district to release the portions of Brothers’ file that chronicled disciplinary action taken against him in response to allegations of sexual misconduct, violence and threats of violence at the school.
The Californian reported on its Web site Friday, announcing the judge’s ruling, that it sought the files after receiving several tips about Brothers’ conduct during his years at Emerson Middle School, and that the district had improperly handled several of the allegations against him. Brothers was transferred from Emerson to Fremont Elementary School after a sexual misconduct complaint was filed against him.
On July 8, Brothers’ family was found shot and stabbed to death in their home. Since that time, he has been on indefinite paid leave from Fremont Elementary.
“We believe the law is clear. Personnel records are private,” said Sue Ann Salmon Evans, attorney for the Bakersfield City School District, in Friday’s Californian article. “The fact of the matter is, Mr. Brothers is the center of attention because of a tragic event, but the district would take this position with any employee.”
Mike Jenner, executive editor of the Californian, said that despite the school district’s concern for its employees’ privacy, there is a compelling need to examine the actions taken by school administrators against Brothers.
“There is a public interest here on behalf of the students, parents and co-workers of a public employee,” he said.
(The Bakersfield Californian v. Bakersfield City School District; Media Council: Thomas Burke, California) — AS
© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press