The founder of Alabama School Connection, a Hoover-based nonprofit, says she has received the payroll records revealing compensation of school employees including teachers that she requested from the Hoover Board of Education more than a year ago.
In an interview after the April 13 Hoover school board meeting, Trisha Powell Crain said school officials gave her the pay data on April 10, a week after the Alabama Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion that says the Hoover school board must approve her public records request for data revealing compensation school employees receive by name.
“They gave me the records they chose to give- two years of payroll records,” said Crain, who originally requested pay data from 2010 through 2013. “They first emailed me a copy late Wednesday (April 8) but then I had to go request a more legible copy.”
Donald Sweeney, the lawyer representing the Hoover Board of Education, declined comment about the matter after the April 13 board meeting except to say Crain had gotten the pay data she had requested.
Crain said she is still going through the documents that lists compensation of more than 1,000 Hoover city school employees, and that so far “it reveals exactly what I thought it would.”
Crain said she has no plans to publish the list on Hoover School Connection’s site.
Crain, whose Alabama School Connection is a blog devoted to writing stories related to Alabama K-12 education, said she made it clear in an article dated Dec. 29, 2014 that her request is not personal. A link to that original blog is here: http://alabamaschoolconnection.org/2014/12/29/the-quest-for-payroll-records-350-days-and-counting/
“Since this request was first made in January 2014, concerns about levels of education funding continue across the state of Alabama,” Crain said in her April 5 statement. “With personnel costs accounting for 80 to 85 percent of a school district's expenditures, employee compensation continues to be an important part of that discussion.”
In her April 3 letter to Hoover school board lawyer Sweeney, Brenda Smith of the state attorney general’s office cited several examples of opinions in other Alabama cases that “settled that payroll records, such as salary or other compensation, are public records.”
“The Hoover City Board of Education is required to disclose, by name, the compensation of employees under the Open Records Law,” wrote Smith, the chief of the Opinions Division in the state attorney general’s office.
Hoover Board of Education officials, citing privacy concerns of employees, originally fought Crain’s request. School board members said that having employee pay made public could open the system up to potential lawsuit and caused friction among many teachers and other front-line employees. They also said it could cause them to lose some of their best teachers to other systems or to retirement.
Crain then hired an attorney, prompting the Hoover school board to vote March 16 to seek the state attorney general’s opinion on the following question, “Are the names of employees of the Hoover City Board of Education public records in addition to their compensation?”
You can see the full Alabama Attorney General’s full opinion saying the data requested is public record below:
In response to the state attorney general opinion, Hoover Board of Education President Donna Frazier issued a statement saying the board respects the attorney general opinion, but adding the matter is an “overriding concern to our employees.”
Frazier added that Hoover school employees “did not and do not understand why the public interests would be served when the exact salary amounts for all positions were already made available” without revealing names.