OKC discloses DOB of employee; newspaper learns he filed bankruptcy prior to city investigation

An Oklahoma City employee placed on administrative leave during an investigation into the misuse of grant money had filed personal bankruptcy a month before the city’s investigation began, The Oklahoman learned after city officials disclosed the employee's birth date late Tuesday.

The newspaper reported that city officials have not answered its request for all city employee birth dates. In an e-mail, a city attorney asked the newspaper for an explanation of the public interest in knowing that information.

City officials had refused since August to release the birth date of Ed Martin, the employee under investigation. A week ago, Assistant City Attorney Richard Smith said disclosure would be an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

Earlier that week, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said birth dates of public employees are presumed to be public records and should be released upon request.

"The only exception ... would be if the agency makes a specific finding that the release of the record would constitute a 'clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,'" Edmondson said in a letter telling state agencies of his formal opinion on the subject.

Smith changed course on Tuesday, telling reporter Bryan Dean in an e-mail:

"Mr. Martin could claim that his date of birth is confidential, however, after much debate and consideration, the City has decided that Mr. Martin’s interest is outweighed by the public’s exercise of their political power.

"I trust that you and the Oklahoman will exercise the utmost care in deciding if you will publish this date of birth," Smith said.

The newspaper did not publish Martin's birth date.

Citing Edmondson's opinion, Smith also made a request of the newspaper.

"[T]o assist the City in the balancing test required by the revised opinion of the Attorney General, please advise me what you perceive to be the public’s interest in knowing each employee’s date of birth," he wrote.

For more on Edmondson's opinion, 2009 OK AG 33, read this blog's earlier posting.

Joey Senat, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

OSU School of Journalism

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the commentators and do not necessarily represent the position of FOI Oklahoma Inc., its staff, or its board of directors. Differing interpretations of open government law and policy are welcome.