FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
Ms. Cynthia Munley
The staff of
the Freedom of Information Advisory Council is authorized
to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion
is based solely upon the information presented in your telephone
conversation of December 21, 2000.
Dear Ms. Munley:
You have asked a
series of questions concerning documents relating to a recent
search for and subsequent hiring of a new city manager. You
indicate that the advertisement for the position included
a minimum requirement of a bachelor's degree in public administration
or a related field. The individual eventually chosen for the
position had an engineering degree, and as a result you seek
information relating to qualifications of the other applicants.
1. Your first
question relates to your attempt to discover which candidates
met the minimum requirement of a bachelor's degree in
public administration, which candidates possessed a master's
degree in public administration, and the names, addresses
and qualifications of the finalists for the position.
The city denied your request for all of these documents
under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA),
citing the personnel records exemption. You ask whether
this exemption has been properly invoked, and if the exemption
does apply, if you may have access to the documents if
any identifiable information is excised from the records.
that unless specifically provided by law, all public
records shall be open to inspection and copying by any
citizens of the Commonwealth. Section 2.1-342.01 of
the Code of Virginia sets forth a series of exemptions
from FOIA for specific types of records. Subsection A.
4. exempts [p]ersonnel records containing information
concerning identifiable individuals. The Attorney
General has determined that applications for a public
position fall under this exemption.1 The Attorney
General has held that general qualifications of applicants,
notes concerning an applicant's qualifications, and the
names of those recommended for employment are likewise
exempt under the personnel records exemption.2
Therefore, it would appear that all of the documents you
have requested concerning identifiable individuals would
be exempt from disclosure under FOIA.
a public record contains both exempt and nonexempt information,
subsection B. 3. of § 2.1-342 requires the public body
to excise the exempt portion and produce the remainder
of the record. However, the language of the personnel
record exemption exempts all personnel records
containing identifiable information, and not just
the identifiable information within a given record. The
Attorney General opined that the identity of an individual
is an integral part of a personnel record, and the exemption
defines a personnel record in part by being a record of
an identifiable individual.3 Thus, if there
is identifiable information in a personnel record, the
entire record is exempt from disclosure and the public
body need not excise that information and release the
remainder of the record.
2. Your second
question relates specifically to documents relating to
the education, experience, and qualifications of the individual
selected for the city manager position. You specifically
have sought the individual's application and resume. Again,
the city invoked the personnel records exemption in response
to your request. As discussed above, the personnel records
exemption applies to any personnel records containing
identifiable information. While the Attorney General opinions
discussed in response to your first question specifically
relate to job applications, the personnel record exemption
also applies to records of public employees. The Attorney
General has found that other records that fall under the
exemption include employee evaluations and professional
qualifications.4 All of the information you
have requested about the city manager seems to relate
to his qualifications, and thus may be properly withheld
by the city.
3. Your third
question asks whether you are entitled to records identifying
the public administration classes that the city manager
has taken or is currently taking that are paid for by
the city. The city produced a voucher showing the amount
paid by the city for the classes, but refused to disclose
the particularities of the classes, again citing the personnel
record exemption. A public official's educational background
appears to be directly related to his professional qualifications,
and as discussed in response to your second question,
this type of information is properly the subject of the
personnel records exemption.
Thank you for contacting
this office. I hope that I have been of assistance.
Maria J.K. Everett
Op. Atty. Gen. Va. 433.
Op. Atty. Gen. Va. 9.
Op. Atty. Gen. Va. 433.
Op. Atty. Gen. Va. 333.