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Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson backs release of birth dates

BRYAN DEAN Modified: September 1, 2009 at 6:38 am •  Published: September 1, 2009
TECUMSEH — Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Monday that Oklahoma City should release the dates of birth of its employees under the state’s open records law.

The Oklahoman requested the date of birth of Ed Martin, director of the city’s Weed and Seed program, after Martin was put on administrative leave last week. The city is investigating potential problems with the management of federal grants in the program, which funds added police enforcement and social programs in high-crime areas.

The city refused to release Martin’s birth date, citing two exemptions in the Oklahoma Open Records Act. One exception prevents the release of "personal information within driver records,” and the other allows governments to keep records secret when they would "constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.”

The attorney general used the city’s case as an example Monday in one of a series of meetings explaining open records and open meeting laws to local officials across Oklahoma.

Edmondson told officials in Tecumseh that the law requires officials to release information unless it is specifically mentioned as exempted from the Open Records Act or unless the courts have ruled it qualifies under an exemption such as personal privacy.

There is no such case law regarding birth dates.

"When there is one of these gray areas, we err on the side of public information,” he said. "The argument that is typically made is that it’s a conduit to identity theft, and while we are certainly sensitive to that argument, it seems that is more applicable to social security numbers than dates of birth.

Attorney General Drew Edmondson will host six upcoming open government seminars this year. For more information about the seminars, call the Oklahoma Press Association at 499-0020.

Today: Tulsa

Sept. 10: Elk City

Sept. 15: Poteau

Sept. 17: Oklahoma City

Sept. 29: Ponca City

Oct. 1: Duncan

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