Southern Ill. Univ. can't withhold staff contracts, judges rule

By The Associated Press

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University can’t block public access to the employment contracts of SIU President Glenn Poshard and other officials, an Illinois appeals court has ruled.

The Illinois Appellate Court issued the ruling last week in a case filed by the Gazette-Democrat, a weekly newspaper in the southern Illinois community of Anna.

A lower court earlier sided with the school in the lawsuit, filed after SIU rejected a request under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. The law requires disclosure of most public documents.

SIU had argued that it already disclosed Poshard’s salary, housing allowance, pension and benefits. The university said actual contracts contain private information that should be protected, and cited a 2005 appeals court ruling in a separate case.

But in its ruling Aug. 15, the appeals court disagreed, highlighting a sentence from the state disclosure law: “The disclosure of information that bears on the public duties of public employees and officials shall not be considered an invasion of privacy.”

SIU hasn’t decided whether to appeal the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court, Poshard said.

“The university must decide whether or not to appeal this ruling to ultimately clarify for public employees what constitutes the appropriate balance between the public’s right to know and the privacy rights of public employees,” Poshard said in a statement.