Thursday, May 8, 2003

Job applicant papers ruled not public record

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - The Cincinnati Enquirer is not entitled to resumes and other records that Cincinnati Public Schools officials used to pick their new superintendent, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

The 6-0 decision states that documents the five superintendent finalists shared with CPS board members and a hired search firm in September were never public record. That's because neither the board nor the firm, Milwaukee-based Proact Search Inc., kept those papers on file.

"The definition of 'public records' unequivocally requires that the records be 'kept' by any public office," the justices wrote.

The seven-member CPS board unanimously voted to hire Alton Frailey, an assistant superintendent from Houston's Spring Branch Independent School District, on Sept. 6 after a secretive two-day interview process.

The five finalists were told that if they left any of their "application materials" with the board, they would become public record.

The Enquirer filed suit in October, arguing in part that the resumes and other papers should be shared with the public because they had been received by school board members.

Bill Seitz, CPS' attorney and a state lawmaker, said the ruling should offer some protection to school officials leery of letting their employers know they're looking for another job.

"Many qualified candidates for public office are reluctant to apply because of the mere fact of their applications becoming public knowledge," Seitz said.

Jack Greiner, the Enquirer's attorney, said the public has a right to know not only the qualifications of the person who was hired, but also of those people who were turned down.

"Did they pick the best person?" Greiner asked. "How can you tell that?"


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