Q&A: Records request work-around


From the Pharos-Tribune (Logansport):

Q: We asked the city and police department for information about a police officer who was put on sick leave for a back injury. Shortly after that, he was disciplined by the assistant police chief, reportedly for using sick time to watch his brother, the mayor, give a state of the city address.

We specifically asked for the following:

• Any and all injury or insurance claims filed by the officer between certain dates

• Any and all injury reports filed by the officer

• Any and all disciplinary reports; any and all official complaints filed by a fellow employee or member of the public

• A detailed report of any and all sick days, personal days or leaves of absence between certain dates.

They denied our entire request based on Indiana Codes 5-14-3-4(a)(3) and (b)(8). How can we get the information we need?

A: Some of the items you asked for do fall under the provision that allows personnel files to be kept confidential [(b)(8)].

As to the (a)(3) rationale for their denial, you need to follow up and ask them what federal law is requiring them to keep some of the documents confidential.

Also follow up on the disciplinary side.

If the discipline was either a suspension or demotion, the public has a right to inspect and copy records from a personnel file that outline the discipline taken and go to the factual basis for the discipline.

Another avenue to explore is with the local clerk-treasurer.

Information might show up on the check register, insurance forms, etc., that could open the window on some of the information concerning his sick leave.

Those documents in that office would not be part of the personnel file, so they might be available unless the clerk-treasurer can find another provision allowing or mandating confidentiality.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.