5 gubernatorial candidates would veto bill exempting birth dates of public employees; Edmondson says he would sign legislation

Five of the six announced gubernatorial candidates said on Saturday that if they were governor, they would veto legislation exempting public employees birth dates from the state Open Records Act.

Only Attorney General
Drew Edmondson, a Democratic candidate, said he would sign the bill.

The Legislature is entitled under the Open Records Act to decide which information in the personnel files of public employees would be considered "an unwarranted invasion of privacy," Edmondson told the audience at FOI Oklahoma's third-annual Sunshine Week conference.

Edmondson said that did not mean he would concede his veto power each time legislators write an exemption to the state Open Records Act.

State Sen. Randy Brogdon, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, said he would veto SB 1753, which would exempt public employee birth dates from personnel files.

When asked how he had voted when the bill came before the full Senate on Feb. 18, Brogdon said he didn't know.

Brogdon voted for the bill when it
passed the Senate by 44-0 vote with no debate on the floor.

After being told how he voted, Brogdon said, "I am not in favor of hiding information so the final product as it comes out I will certainly vote accordingly."

Also saying they would veto the legislation were Lt. Gov.
Jari Askins, a Democrat, and Republican candidates Congresswoman Mary Fallin, Robert Hubbard and Roger L. Jackson.
The conference was the first time all six announced gubernatorial candidates had attended the same event to speak on a topic.

In the morning sessions, experts on privacy emphasized that birth dates in public records do not pose a threat of identity theft.

In December, Edmondson issued a formal written opinion stating that government employee birth dates are presumed open unless the public body can demonstrate that the employee’s privacy outweighs the public’s interest in disclosure.

In August, Edmondson said publicly that officials should err on the side of transparency regarding the release of dates of birth of employees. Edmondson said it’s difficult to contend that birth dates are private when they are found in a number of public records. He has since disclosed the birth dates of his own employees.

Edmondson has signed FOI Oklahoma Inc.'s Open Government Pledge promising "to support at every opportunity the public policy of the State of Oklahoma that the people are vested with the inherent right to know and be fully informed about their government so that they can efficiently and intelligently exercise their inherent political power.”

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.