A plan to shield Lake County school employees from anonymous and unfounded complaints has open records experts questioning the tactic.
This week, the School Board agreed to hire a company to run an employee hotline which would take reports of suspected fraud and ethics violations. But the 5-0 vote to approve didn’t come until the board’s attorney came up with a way to keep anonymous, unsubstantiated complaints out of employees’ personnel files.
Complaints against public employees, once investigated, are available for public inspection, according to the Florida Sunshine Law.
As a matter of practice, complaints go into an employee’s personnel file.
But Bill Mathias, whose District 1 seat covers the Groveland area, had concerns about anonymous, unfounded complaints going into an employee’s file.
“In today’s world we have seen false accusations that destroy people,” Mathias said. “I don’t quite understand why, by statute, why it has to go into the file if it’s found to be unsubstantiated.”
Steven Johnson, the School Board’s attorney, gave Mathias a standard interpretation of the law.
“Once you finish the investigation or find no cause to go any further, that becomes public record. At that point in time, that is required to be maintained in the personnel file but the employee is allowed to file a response within a certain number of days that goes on top of those documents,” Johnson said.
Still, board members continued to question the law. [READ MORE]