The Gazette-Times has made some headway in its efforts to obtain complete electronic payroll information from Oregon State University but is again appealing OSU’s decision to withhold some data.
The G-T and its co-petitioners, former student media adviser Kate Willson and Megan Campbell, managing editor of OSU’s student newspaper, are seeking five years’ worth of electronic payroll records for all employees of the university, as well as explanatory information about the compensation database.
OSU officials previously offered to provide compensation data on faculty and staff members but refused to release the same information on students, saying that was protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, known as FERPA.
The university also withheld data dictionaries and record layouts that would enable reporters to understand the fields contained in the database, calling that information proprietary and exempt from disclosure under the Oregon Public Records Law and the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.
Willson, Campbell and the Gazette-Times appealed the partial denial on Jan. 17 to Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson, who upheld the university’s position on data dictionaries and record layouts but declined to rule on the FERPA question, saying the appeal had not specifically sought an opinion on that issue.
Last week, after a revised request from the petitioners, OSU released a substantial portion of the records being sought. The university provided payroll data on faculty and staff dating back to Jan. 1, 2008, along with a set of field names allowing the data to be interpreted.
OSU is still refusing to provide any student pay records, citing its interpretation of FERPA.
The university also declined to release any data regarding employee gender, deferred pay, vacation leave or personal leave. Those details, OSU claims, are considered private under exemptions in the Oregon Public Records Law related to faculty records and personal privacy.
On Monday, the Gazette-Times and its fellow petitioners filed a second appeal with the district attorney challenging OSU’s interpretation of the law and asking that it be compelled to provide the rest of the requested records.
Steve Clark, OSU’s vice president for university relations and marketing, had no comment on the specifics of the appeal, saying simply: “We await the district attorney’s review of this matter.”