After six months of requests, it took a state agency’s advisory opinion to force Blue Earth Area School District officials to release payroll information of a former third-grade teacher.
Timesheets released by school district attorney Michelle Kenney shows that Steven Wood was not allowed to teach following his arrest last May for domestic assault.
But, Wood was placed on paid leave while the district was conducting an internal investigation of a complaint.
From May 17 through June 9, he was paid for 17 days that were classified as “workshop.”
Last September, Wood resigned after reaching a separation agreement with the district to pay him $19,731.
Superintendent Evan Gough and Kenney said information regarding Wood’s employment status after he was arrested was protected by the state’s Data Practices Act because the district was investigating a complaint.
Because Wood resigned and there was no disciplinary action, district officials maintained that timesheet data remained “private” in perpetuity.
However, Commissioner Matthew Massman of the Department of Administration disagreed, saying that timesheets and other comparable data used for payroll purposes is available to the public under statute 13.43.
“The plain language of the statute resists such an interpretation,” Massman wrote in his opinion. “The fact that a complaint exists does not mean that those public elements become private or reveal private data, even if an entity is using them in an active investigation.”