A second Oklahoma City employee has been placed on administrative leave as city officials continue to investigate the management of grant funds in the Weed and Seed program. City officials refused to release the second employee’s name. Weed and Seed is a federal program allowing cities to get grant money to increase police enforcement in high crime areas and offer social programs to build up the neighborhoods in those areas. The city’s Weed and Seed program recently was moved from the now-dissolved neighborhood services department to the police department. Police officials said they found potential problems with management of the grants as they began reviewing the program. On Monday, city officials said the director of the program, Ed Martin, was suspended with pay. They backtracked Tuesday, saying Martin was placed on administrative leave and not suspended.
Expert criticizes city’s logicThe state Open Records Act requires local governments to release disciplinary action resulting in suspension, but city officials said administrative leave is not a suspension. "This is not any disciplinary action, let alone a final disciplinary action,” Personnel Director Dianna Berry said. Joey Senat, an Oklahoma State University journalism professor and open government expert, said the public has a right to know when government employees are disciplined, regardless of what public officials want to call it. "Clearly the law is intended to let the public know when there is a disciplinary action taken against a government employee,” Senat said. "Public bodies may be trying to find creative language to get around that wording, but they are violating the spirit of the law.” The Oklahoman also requested personnel information about Martin. City officials refused to release his date of birth. City Attorney Kenny Jordan cited a section of the Oklahoma Open Records Act exempting "personal information within driver records,” saying Martin’s date of birth is listed on his driver’s license. Senat said that section of the law pertains specifically to state driver records. Following the city’s logic, Senat said, employee names would also be secret because they are listed on licenses. He called the city’s reasoning "absurd.” Jordan also cited an exemption in the law allowing governments to keep records confidential if they constitute a "clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy.” Dates of birth are listed on many public records including voter records and court records. "The law is supposed to be interpreted broadly in favor of public access, and clearly there is no specific statutory exemption for this information,” Senat said. "Providing the information serves the public interest. We need to know who our employees are.”