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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 112668
Experience:  20+ Years of Employment Law Experience
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I live in the state of Iowa my question pertains to

Customer Question

I live in the state of Iowa my question pertains to employment law specifically around hiring an employee for a city job. I am a member of the city council and staff is hiring a finance director. They have narrowed the candidate down to one to be brought
to city council for final approval. They are stating that this candidate's resume would be confidential information that is not allowed to be shared with the general public. What I have asked for is this candidate's resume be posted on the agenda. Staff is
stating they will not because this is an HR document that is confidential This is for a city job - so salary, benefit, everything is public knowledge. The resume is nothing more than a word file the candidate submitted to be considered for the job. I am finding
there is reasons for staff to withhold certain background information from the public so that is why as a city council member I am forcing the issue that the resume should be made public. The resume has no more personal information than name, employment history,
education history - nothing more than what a person would find on a linkedin page. No information pertaining to age, race, religion, gender, etc Is there anything in Iowa that would allow staff to consider this private information considering this is a position
for a public job
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking for educational purposes only.

Personnel matters are confidential matters of a public body. The discussions about personnel matters, including hiring, firing or discipline are conducted in executive session not open to the public. Thus, they can make the document confidential and keep the information out of the public record as a personnel matter and that is not illegal and it is appropriate. Personnel records regarding anything but position and salary are not public records in IA, so that is why HR is correct and that the resume is and can be kept confidential and the only exception is if the employee or applicant agrees in writing to release it or if when you solicited these resumes you stated in the advertisement that all submissions would be open to public inspection.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
ok that helps - but they are holding the hiring part in an open session. The decision by council is being held in a public session. Generally they are held in executive session as you describe.The reason I ask is they posted the position requiring a 4 year degree. The final applicant they chose and is bringing to council does not have a 4 year degree. Not even certificates of any kind. There are members of the public hearing this is the case and coming to me asking why they weren't considered because they also don't have the credentials required in the posting.Is there any way the posting could be considered some type of requirement for hiring? My fear is this will be a disaster during the city council meeting when people learn for the first time the final candidate does not meet the requirements in the posting, but is being offered the position - and I'm assuming will state that they were not privy to the candidates resume, or lack of resume, so now are claiming some type of recourse.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
wouldn't the hiring be required to be in an executive session?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your reply.

The hiring decision can be in open session, but negotiations and discussions about candidate qualifications are confidential matters in executive session. The determination about the choices they made in executive session are brought to the public session for a vote, since they cannot vote to hire in the executive session.

If people have opposition to the candidate or a board member has opposition, they can voice their opposition in the open meeting. However, that does not make the person's resume public record.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
thanks - I guess I'm confused. First you state that negotiations and discussions about candidate qualifications are confidential matters in executive session. Then you state that if people have opposition to the candidate or a board member has opposition, they can voice their opposition in the open meeting.
Which would be the case?
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your reply.

They can raise opposition to anyone before the board in a public meeting. I said that personnel matters such as hiring qualifications and interviews and such are matters not public record and in executive session. The final decision on who to hire is then brought out of executive session to the open session where the public is free to object if they have information as to why they do not want someone hired. That is quite different than releasing resumes and personnel files.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
thank you - my concern is there is not an executive session. So the board will be debating the candidates qualifications in public for the first time. So all matters risk being discussed in public.The resume was sent to council via emai. My concern is there is nothing keeping anyone on council from publishing the resume any place.But after seeing the resume for the first time - I can see given the lack of education, gaps in employment history, the fact that the individual has been unemployed for the last 9 months, and the position is a senior level position in the city. I have concerns of the intent of staff of hiring this person and my concern is when its discussed in public it will become way too personal for this personWith that, is there any legal requirement to hold this in executive session? Are there any legal risks of doing this whole messy thing in public? The questioning by the council or the public will not be able to be controlled. I anticipate questions like "you are not old enough to retire but it shows you retired. You have no education but the job posting required a 4 year degree. You were unemployed 10 years ago for a year - why?"In my day job these types of questions would be prohibited, but they wouldn't be happening because the questioning would be done by professionals in a controlled confidential environment.I'm concerned of all levels of legal exposure
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your reply.

They can choose to do so and any board member can call for executive session if they choose. This is up to the board to do. It is a legal ground to go into executive session if the board chair chooses or any board member asks for executive session. If they do not do so that is up to the board.

HR is right that the resume is supposed to be kept confidential and if the board does not do so, they could be subject to suit by the applicant. Those questions you pose above are legitimate questions, but really should be in executive session and any board member can ask for that.