Oklahoma City has refused to release birth dates of all its employees, a decision an open government expert said ignores the public’s interest and a recent attorney general’s opinion.
Attorney General Drew Edmondson ruled earlier this month that birth dates of public employees are presumed open records because they are not specifically exempted under the Oklahoma Open Records Act. Oklahoma City previously refused to release the birth date of Ed Martin, director of the city’s Weed and Seed program. Martin is on administrative leave while city and federal officials investigate the mismanagement of funds in the program. City officials claimed releasing Martin’s birth date would fit within an exception allowing records to be confidential when releasing them would be a "clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy.” Edmondson’s ruling said agencies who want to use that exception must show how releasing a birth date would invade an employee’s privacy and weigh those concerns against the public interest in releasing the records. Following the opinion, city officials agreed to release Martin’s birth date. But in a recent letter, they denied a request by The Oklahoman for all employee birth dates, saying allowing the public to use the information to check employee’s criminal records, political contributions and other background information would not "assist citizens in the exercise of that political power.” Without birth dates, it is impossible to determine whether public employees with common names are convicted felons or sex offenders or to look up other information the public might want to know about its employees by looking at public databases.