Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Elected public officials have a lower expectation of privacy, AG reiterates in Louisville constable case

The state attorney general’s office recently found that the Department of Criminal Justice Training improperly withheld records that could reveal whether Constable David Whitlock of Louisville successfully completed the classes in which he was enrolled at the department, as well as any certifications he received.

Whitlock was involved in a shooting altercation at a Louisville store recently, raising questions about his training and whether he had completed the courses that the Louisville Metro government requires constables to take in order to get performance bonds. When Courier-Journal Staff Writer Joseph Lord requested the records on Nov. 4, the department gave him with a copy of Whitlock’s transcript showing which courses he attended and the number of hours for each course, but excluded the test scores, citing the "clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy" exception of the Open Records Act.

Attorney General Jack Conway said that as an elected public official, Whitlock represents the public in his work and answers to the voters, so the public has more legitimate interest in him than a general public employee. "Inasmuch as Constable Whitlock, a publicly elected official, enrolled in classes which related to his work and were intended to better qualify him to discharge his duties, the public is entitled to know whether he successfully completed those classes," Conway said.

The decision said it stands for the notion that elected public officials have a lower expectation of privacy than a non-elected public employee, and reiterates a previous decision “that the privacy rights of the public employee extend only to matters which are not related to the performance of his [or her] work.”

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