Wyo. high court orders district to disclose teacher salary data

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A Cheyenne school district must disclose teacher salary information to a daily newspaper, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

The court upheld a district judge's earlier ruling that the Wyoming Tribune Eagle is entitled to inspect salary records at Laramie County School District 1.

“Of course, we're always thrilled, but in this case we're not surprised,” Tribune Eagle Executive Editor D. Reed Eckhardt said yesterday of the ruling in Laramie County School District 1 v. Cheyenne Newspapers, Inc. “There never was a doubt in our minds that the salaries and the names are public information.”

Eckhardt said the newspaper may create a searchable database for its website that would allow people to look up salary information.

“It's important that taxpayers, parents, business people, other stakeholders in the school system have a right to know what teachers are being paid and how they're being paid, and what raises their pay to different levels,” Eckhardt said.

Mark Stock, district superintendent, said yesterday that the district intended to comply with the court's order.

“We felt like it was a legal question that really needed to be clarified,” Stock said.

He said the district had already produced information on how much it was paying employees but without names attached, adding that officials felt it was in employees' “best interest” to not release details of their pay. The district has more than 2,000 employees.

“The request to produce all of our employees by name, with their current salaries, and so on, is a request that we felt could put some of our employees in jeopardy,” Stock said.

Although Stock declined to say how the information might put employees in jeopardy, the court ruling states the district had argued that an employee who had eluded a stalker in the past might have his or her whereabouts become public if the newspaper got access to the records.

Justice Michael Golden wrote the court's decision, remarking that the district had conceded that the number of district employees who might be hiding out from stalkers would be small.

“The public has a right to know how a governmental entity expends public funds,” Golden wrote.

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