Media requests mean potential exposure of salary details

Because of media inquiries that follow recent changes to Colorado open-records law, CU faculty and staff could potentially see heightened visibility of their salaries.

Senate Bill 17-40, which in June was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper, modernized the Colorado Open Records Act  by requiring state and local agencies – which include CU – to provide digitized copies of public records that are maintained in a digitized format.

Because CU faculty and staff are public employees, their salaries are part of the public record.

The modernized access enables the public, including the media, to search and sort through data electronically for the purpose of analysis. Colorado now is among roughly 16 states that provide such access, as does the federal government.

“As a public institution, we’re working to balance our obligation to be transparent and to meet the spirit and intent of CORA with letting CU employees know when we get requests that may lead to their salary information appearing on media websites,” said Ken McConnellogue, vice president for communication.

The changes to CORA took effect this summer and CU has since received media requests to access employee salary data. CU Boulder recently received such a request from FOX31, while the Denver Business Journal requested the information for all campuses. The requested information has been provided. In response to CU queries, the media outlets shared that they will use the data either for background purposes or as part of salary analysis stories. Neither FOX31 nor the Denver Business Journal has done stories or posted the information. Both media outlets have also requested information from other higher education institutions and state agencies. In the recent past, The Denver Post had published employee names with salary figures after researching printed public documents available from the university.

CU most recently had made available lists of job titles with associated salary figures; the new requirement means employee names also will be visible in the salary database.

Besides employee salaries, most records – such as expenditures of public funds, most email correspondence and agendas and minutes from department meetings – are public records under CORA.

Some records continue to be categorized as exemptions that are not public, including Social Security numbers, personnel records, security-sensitive documents, attorney-client privileged memos, academic grade reports, information protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and others.

The university’s Administrative Policy Statement on CORA, APS 2022, provides more information.

— This article originally appeared in the Oct. 5 edition of CU Connections

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