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Lawrence list still a secret
Commissioner refuses to name candidates despite AG’s opinion

By Nancy Glasscock
nglasscock@decaturdaily.com · 340-2443

MOULTON — The public may never know the names of all 32 people who applied for Lawrence County administrator if one county commissioner gets her way.

Commissioner Alma Whitlow refused Wednesday to release the names of the applicants after being shown an attorney general’s opinion and other legal opinions stating resumes of the applicants are public record and should be made available to the public and press.

Whitlow told The Daily on Tuesday that she would release the names Wednesday afternoon after she’d had time to contact all the applicants to ask them whether they wanted their names to be available to the media.

However, all the names of those who applied for the job already should be open to the public, according to a state attorney general’s opinion.

An attorney general’s opinion this year states that a letter or any other written, typed or printed document received by a public official in pursuance of law is a public record.

In addition, a 1990 state attorney general’s opinion regarding the Colbert County Commission states that making available only the names, addresses and places of employment of applicants is not sufficient without full disclosure of the resumes.

And in a 1989 decision, the Alabama Supreme Court held that under Alabama’s Open Records Act, applications, resumes and related materials used by a county commission in hiring a water and sewer service coordinator could be accessed by the press.

Late Wednesday, Whitlow said she hadn’t been able to reach everyone who applied. She said that some applicants had asked that their names not be made available to the public, and that she felt she should honor those requests.

‘I need to ask every one’

“I truly feel like I need to ask every one of them,” she said.

Commissioner Mose Jones said that he didn’t know Whitlow was withholding the names of the applicants, and that she must have been misinformed about whether the names were public record.

“It is a county job, so anybody has a right to know who applied for that job,” Jones said. “They have to understand they’re applying for a public job. Now, if they were applying for a job at a plant or something, that would be different.”

Commissioner John Terry and County Attorney Cecil Caine said they didn’t know whether the applicants’ names were public record. Attempts to reach Chairman Bradley Cross and Commissioner Harold LouAllen on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Whitlow said Cross shared her opinion that the names shouldn’t be made available to the public unless the applicants gave permission to have their names released.

She said she hadn’t been granted any administrative authority by the commission to keep the names secret. She said she has been in the commission building recently to help out in the understaffed commission offices.

The contracts of former administrator Linda Harville and former assistant administrator Karen Harrison were terminated last month after commissioners said the two admitted they installed an illegal monitoring system in the commission office. The FBI seized the system and interviewed county officials last month.

After The Daily asked for the names of all 32 applicants, six withdrew their applications because they feared they would lose their current jobs if their names were published, Whitlow said.

One person who applied asked that a resume be shredded to protect the person’s identity, Whitlow said.

Whitlow said the resumes and applications are in a file in the commission office, and other commissioners don’t have lists of the applicants’ names. Terry set up the interviews, to be held at 9 a.m. Friday, but commissioners had different opinions on whether the interviews would be public.

Terry said earlier this week the interviews would be public, but Whitlow said the interviews might be private. Jones said the interviews would be public.

“The interviews have to be public,” he said. “Anytime we have a work session or public meeting to deal with things that the taxpayers are paying for, it is a matter of public record.”

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