Public Record Request for Public Employee Salary Data

Many school districts have received an e-mail from Daniel Fox

( asking them to send “copies of public records

of individual salary data for all public school employees (with a focus on

teachers and administrators) for as many years as are available between

1995-2016.” Mr. Fox says that he is seeking this information on behalf of

Dr. Joseph Price at Brigham Young University, who he says is doing a study

on the gender gap in teacher pay.

We have reviewed Mr. Fox’s e-mail and have consulted with the

Nebraska Attorney General’s Office about it. We are advising KSB clients

that this is a valid public records request which requires a response. Every

school that received this request will have to do four things promptly:

1) Ascertain which records (in any format) are subject to disclosure in

response to this request;

2) Calculate how much it will cost to fulfill the request – this includes

all the costs that we’ve detailed below;

3) Determine how long it will take you to fulfill the request; and

4) Respond back to Mr. Fox by this Thursday, June 9 (if you got this

request on Friday and your school will be open for business every

day this week). You will either need to provide the documents or

communicate the costs and timeline for your eventual response.

The rest of this update explains these steps.

Requested Documents and Analysis. Schools almost certainly

have records containing the items listed in Mr. Fox’s request, which was the

“year, name, job title, salary information, education, experience, and

gender” of each of its staff members for the last 21 years. At a minimum,

Mr. Fox would like any documents containing the “year, name, salary, and

job title” of teachers and administrators. As we read this request in light of

the Public Records Act, we recommend that you analyze your individual

teacher and administrator contracts, along with spreadsheets, payroll

records, or other documents which contain this information in order to

determine what you must disclose. Gaining an understanding of the

documents which may be responsive to this request, even if you do not

locate all of them immediately, will allow you to estimate the costs discussed


Form of the Documents.  Schools are not required to produce or

prepare any records “in a new or different form or format modified from that

of the original public record.” If your district maintains this information

electronically (say, in your payroll software or on a spreadsheet) it should be

fairly straightforward to generate a report that includes this information and

nothing else. However, if the district only has paper records for some of

these years, the district will need to review the records to ascertain which

must be disclosed, redacted, or withheld.

Response Within Four Business Days.   Schools must respond to

this request within four business days. That does not mean you have to

gather these documents by then. The Public Records Act states that if the

entire request cannot with reasonable good faith efforts be fulfilled within

four business days “due to the significant difficulty or the extensiveness of

the request,” you can instead communicate back to the requester. That

communication should include a written explanation of why, including the

earliest practicable date for fulfilling the request, an estimate of the

expected cost of any copies, and an opportunity for the requester to modify

or prioritize the items within the request.

Fees for Gathering and Copying These Documents.  If it will take

your staff more than four hours to search, identify, redact or copy these

documents, you can charge for that staff time. NEB. REV. STAT. § 84-712(3)(c).

Alternatively, if you decide to pay a third party (an independent contractor

or even your educational service unit) to search your computer or paper files

and gather these documents, you can charge for all of that additional

expense. You may also charge a fee for your actual costs (e.g. copying,

printing, computer analysis) in responding. You are, however, prohibited

from charging the requester for the cost of your attorney reviewing the

public records response.  

Deposit.  You may request a deposit prior to producing the records if

you reasonably calculate that the total fee (including copying, staff, and

contractor costs) for providing the records would exceed $50.00. Mr. Fox

will then have 10 days either to narrow the scope of his request or to

provide you with the requested deposit.

If you would like assistance in preparing a response to Mr. Fox or if

you have questions about the public records statutes in general, you should

consult with your school district’s attorney or call Karen, Steve, or Bobby.