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State ordered to reveal day-care employees with criminal records

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         CALIFORNIA         Freedom of Information         Sep 17, 2001    

State ordered to reveal day-care employees with criminal records

  • A three-judge appellate panel compels the Department of Social Services to release information about day-care centers that hire employees with criminal convictions.

The California Court of Appeal in Los Angeles has ordered the Department of Social Services to disclose a list of all persons with criminal convictions who have been licensed to work in day-care centers, as required by the public records act.

The Aug. 21 decision followed a request from CBS last year seeking review of the department’s exemption records for employees with criminal convictions. The department is in charge of licensing day-care centers and their employees and occasionally grants exemptions to persons with lesser criminal convictions to allow them to work there.

The department denied the network’s original Sept. 5, 2000, request, arguing disclosure would be an invasion of privacy to those persons with criminal convictions.

CBS sued the department to compel disclosure and provide access to “all non-expressly exempted portions” of the requested records. The network argued the disclosure would allow the public to oversee the department’s decisions since it is the sole agency responsible for licensing and overseeing the centers.

CBS further argued the individual right to privacy was negated by the public nature of the application to operate a day-care center or work or live in it.

The department argued that nondisclosure was guaranteed under California law and that revealing an individual’s criminal history was against the law and an invasion of the person’s privacy. It further argued the disclosure request would impose a significant financial burden in salary costs that would exceed $40,000.

The court disagreed, saying the department had a duty under the California Public Records Act to disclose the identity of each individual granted a criminal conviction exemption. The court noted that CBS was not seeking specific individual information about the convictions. It further stated that the day-care employees automatically subjected themselves to public review by virtue of applying for licenses to work at a day-care center.

The Court rejected the department’s argument that it would cost approximately $43,000 to compile accurate lists. According to the court’s decision, the department had no legitimate interest in maintaining inaccurate lists of such individuals.

(CBS Broadcasting Inc. v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Media Counsel: Andrew M. White, Jonathan H. Anschell, and Carl R. Benedetti, White O’Connor Curry Gatti & Avanzado) MM

© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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