Hoover City School Board of Education
The Hoover Board of Education voted this morning to seek an opinion from Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange on whether it has to release payroll records including salaries of school system employees.
The resolution motion by Board President Donna Frazier, seconded by Earl Cooper, was approved 3-0 to officially seek an attorney general's opinion in response to a public records request by Trisha Crain, executive director of the Alabama School Connection, a nonprofit that according to its website is dedicated to “providing consistent, high-quality media content of K-12 education in Alabama.”
The Hoover school board's attorney, Donald Sweeney, last week sought the attorney general’s opinion under guidance of interim Superintendent Jim Reese after several employees rejected to the release of their pay. Sweeney was told told the request required official action by the board of education, board member Cooper said in an interview after the meeting this morning.
The special called meeting was over in less than 10 minutes, with the three board members hearing the official attorney general opinion request and voting. Cooper said the the public records request for school system payroll records for 2012 and 2013 by Hoover resident Crain for her education news website has caused friction in the school system among hundreds of employees who don’t want their pay made public.
“This resolution is not about any individual making the request, it’s about trying to balance the confidentiality of our employees,” Cooper said. “In our opinion, it’s best to get feedback from the attorney general on this matter.”
Crain is seeking payroll records on how much each employee in the Hoover school system makes, arguing that the School Fiscal Accountability Act of 2006 makes such financial documents open to the public. Cooper said the payroll request has some of Hoover’s veteran teachers and staff members threatening to leave or retire, and added that the school system could face potential lawsuits from employees regarding the release of their pay.
He said school officials understand pay release of top school system administrators, but questions the need for the release of salaries of individual teachers and staff who aren’t involved in key decisions on issues like finances.
“Based on employees’ response, this could cause a significant disruption in the classroom if payroll records are released,” Cooper said. “We understand and respect the open records law, but it is our intent to balance the needs of our stakeholders and employees.”
Cooper said the school board doesn’t like to get involved in issues like deciding which employees’ pay to reveal or not, and needs the attorney general to guide them on the matter. He compared the debate on the open records law to the Alabama Legislature a few years ago amending the state ethics law regarding the value of gifts to teachers that was acceptable or not.
“The key point here is that we do not want this issue to disrupt Hoover’s classrooms,” Cooper said. “We want the attorney general’s opinion to decide how to proceed.”
Here is the full wording of the Hoover Board of Education resolution approved 3-0 this morning by Cooper, President Frazier and Craig Kelly:
HOOVER CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION RESOLUTION REQUEST FOR OPINION FROM ALABAMA ATTORNEY GENERAL
RESOLVED that the Hoover City Board of Education direct and authorize its attorney, Donald B. Sweeney, Jr, to request an Opinion from Honorable Luther Strange, Attorney General for the State of Alabama, regarding the following question:
Where the Hoover City Board of Education has Produced Salary and Supplement Pay Schedules For Its 2,003 Employees, Must the Board Disclose the Names of Each Employee and the Compensation Paid to Each Employee Where the Disclosure is Objected to by Employees as Being Sensitive and Confidential, and Where the Production Will Require Time and Expense to Compile Such Extensive Information?