December 15, 1993
IN RE: Robert K. Landrum/Kentucky State University
OPEN RECORDS DECISION
This appeal originated in a request for records submitted by Mr. Robert K. Landrum to the custodian of records for Kentucky State University on April 17, 1993. Mr. Landrum requested access to:
Each and every employee benefit application form and each and every W-4 and K-4 form made out by and/or signed by the following KSU employees since November 1, 1984: Reginald Thomas, Thomas Braun, Dae Sung Lee, Jay Close, Chung Ja Lee, Debra Feroze, Gina Stiver, Janice Watson, Christy Roberts, Joel Sokoloff.
On behalf of KSU, Mr. Reginald L. Thomas, General Counsel, responded to Mr. Landrum's request on April 23, advising him that the University "considers employee benefit information and personal income tax information to be of 'a personal nature' the public disclosure of which would constitute an 'invasion of personal privacy.'" Relying on KRS 61.878(1)(a), Mr. Thomas denied his request.
On May 15, Mr. Landrum narrowed his request, asking whether the University would "agree to send copies of W-4's and K-4's of the named individuals for the time span with a cover-up or white-out of the numbers each person transcribed at the right hand edge of each of the forms." Mr. Landrum explained that he was not interested in learning the amounts of their exemptions, deductions, or withholdings. On May 18, Mr.
Thomas denied this request, affirming the position he previously took relative to tax information. This appeal followed.
In his letter of appeal to this Office, Mr. Landrum asks that we intercede on his behalf to assist him in obtaining these records. He further narrows his request, indicating that he is not interested in learning the social security numbers or street numbers on the W-4's or K-4's.
We are asked to determine if Kentucky State University properly denied Mr. Landrum's request for redacted copies of the named employees' W-4's and K-4's. Curiously, if each item of information which Mr. Landrum has expressed no interest in is redacted, all that remains are the names and signatures of the identified employees. Nevertheless, we believe that the University is obligated to release redacted copies of the named employees' W-4's and K-4's.
KRS 61.870(2) defines public records as "all books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tapes, discs, diskettes, recordings or other documentary materials regardless of physical form or characteristics, which are prepared, owned, used, in the possession of or retained by a public agency." W-4 and K-4 forms are used by an employer to determine the proper amount of income tax to withhold from an employee's salary. Copies of those forms are attached. These forms contain a mixture of exempt and nonexempt information, including name, social security number, home address, marital/filing status, exemptions/allowances, additional withholdings, and a signature/dateline. Because Mr. Landrum
requests only those portions of the W-4's and K-4's which contain the employee's name and signature, we need not address the question of whether other information appearing on the forms must be released. It is clear that the forms are "public records," insofar as they are records which are "prepared, owned, used, in the possession of or retained by a public agency," to wit, the University, and that the names and signatures of employees appearing on the forms are not exempt from inspection. It is equally clear that Kentucky State University is required to separate the exempt material and make the nonexempt material available for inspection pursuant to KRS 61.878(4).
Kentucky State University may challenge this decision by initiating action in the appropriate circuit court pursuant to KRS 61.880(5) and KRS 61.882. Although the Attorney General should be notified of any action in circuit court, he should not be named as a party in that action, or in any subsequent proceedings.
AMYE B. MAJORS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
Hon. Reginald Thomas
Kentucky State University
Frankfort, KY 40601
Mr. Robert K. Landrum
317 Chippendale Circle
Lexington, KY 40517