July 31, 2009 in Idaho

Coeur d’Alene keeps employee names secret

Associated Press
 

The city of Coeur d’Alene has refused to release the full first names of its employees to a man who filed a public records request, saying that revealing gender is exempt from Idaho’s public records law.

Wayne Hoffman, director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, requested the names and salaries of employees at dozens of state, city and county entities for a Web site he’s creating.

Coeur d’Alene granted part of Hoffman’s request, providing him the salaries and last names of its 360-plus employees. But the city declined to release the employees’ first names, saying they could indicate gender. After he protested, the city released the employees’ first initials.

“Idaho code indicates very clearly that gender doesn’t have to be disclosed,” city attorney Mike Gridley told the Coeur d’Alene Press. “We’ve honored that statute.”

Hoffman says interpretation of Idaho law is “absurd, shallow and indefensible … They’re just looking for ways to keep the public from quickly being able to figure out who makes what.”

Hoffman, former communications coordinator for ex-Congressman Bill Sali, said he didn’t request the genders, just the names. He says Coeur d’Alene’s interpretation of the law is something he’s never come across in the 10 years he spent as a government reporter before working for Sali.

None of the other entities who have already responded to his request have failed to provide first and last names, Hoffman said.

Hoffman expects to launch the Web site, www.ouridaho.com, in mid-August. He already has roughly 30,000 employee positions posted — about 737 pages of first and last names.

Hoffman said he may challenge the city’s decision in court.

“Perhaps it’s for a judge to decide,” Gridley said.

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