Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Court of Appeals: Individuals' Pension Benefits Public Record

The Third District Court of Appeals ruled today that the California Public Records Act requires county retirement boards to disclose the names and corresponding pension amounts of its members.  The case arose from a newspaper's public record request to a county retirement board organized under the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937.

Government Code Section 31532 provides “Sworn statements and individual records of members shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed to anyone except insofar as may be necessary for the administration of this chapter or upon order of a court of competent jurisdiction, or upon written authorization by the member.” The court held pension amounts are not construed as part of the phrase “individual records of members.” The court construed the “phrase narrowly to mean data filed with SCERS by a member or on a member’s behalf, not broadly to encompass all data held by SCERS that pertains to a member” and rejected arguments that the privacy interests served by non-disclosure outweigh the public’s interest in disclosure. Retirement system members’ address, phone number, and social security numbers remain confidential.