Policy 2-5 RELEASE OF INFORMATION POLICY


DATE:    March 12, 1996

DISTRIBUTION:    Mayor
Members of the City Council
        All Departments

SUBJECT:    Uniform policy prescribing  guidelines and procedures for the release of information on incidents or matters that have or may result in claims or litigation against the City, its officials or employees.

PURPOSE:    To establish the orderly and knowledgeable release of information  in connection with pending or potential claims or litigation involving or which may involve the City, its officials or employees.

BACKGROUND:    From time to time the City, City officials, or a City employee or employees may be involved in an incident or matter that has or may result in a claim or litigation against the City, its officials and/or its employees.  Quite a few of these incidents involve more employees and departments than are known about by other employees within the City.

Very often, private investigators, attorneys, reporters or interested third parties will approach the unsuspecting employee to gather information.  If these people are real good at their job, they may get information about you, a co-worker or the City, without you even knowing you gave it.  This policy is intended to furnish guidelines to City officials and City employees on how to respond to requests for information from such persons outside the City government without going through official channels. The policy is not intended to curb or inhibit one's constitutional right to freedom of speech or expression or interfere with the attorney-client relationship between an official or employee and his or her private attorney.

PROCEDURES AND
RESPONSIBILITIES:    Except as otherwise provided herein, a concerning incidents or matters that have or may result in claims or litigation against the City and/or its officials or employees must be referred to the City Attorney or his designee prior to release of any information.

1.    An employee may discuss ongoing or anticipated claims or lawsuits which involve the City or any City official or employee with a private attorney, private investigator or other persons outside the City government only in the presence of the City Attorney or his designee.  If represented by an attorney in the litigation, the employee may discuss the suit with the attorney outside the presence of the City Attorney.

 2.    If necessarily incident to the performance of his or her duties, an employee may discuss any factual matters arising within the employee's official duties, with any non-City personnel,  or the public, but may not give personal opinions on the factual matters. For example, Field Utilities crew members may inform the homeowner that the sewer back-up was caused by a blockage in the sewer main, but may not give an opinion that a claim, if filed, will be approved or disapproved; a police officer investigating a vehicular accident scene at a four-way intersection may make a statement that there are no traffic control signs/devices at the intersection, but may not make a statement that there should have been signs or devices at the intersection since the placement of traffic control signs/devices is within the discretion of the City Council;  a police officer may discuss an investigation of a vehicular accident, whether apparently involving the City or not after leaving the scene and filing his report if the discussion or information released is based on facts and not opinion relating to the vehicular accident.  A member of the fire department may not give opinion as to the origin of a fire if the origin is of a suspicious nature or is under investigation.  However, the official report of an incident, if releasable under the Open Records Act, may be released to the requesting party.  When appropriate, the City Attorney or his designee may require that the employee be subpoenaed prior to the employee discussing with any outside parties matters or issues which are in litigation to economize times and insure fairness to all parties.

3.    With regard to claims or litigation involving only outside parties with no possibility of City involvement, the City official or employee is encouraged to seek guidance from the City Attorney or his designee before giving any information, statement or testimony.  This procedure is designed to provide guidance to the official or employee so as not to express an opinion which would eventually result in a claim or suit being filed against the City.  When appropriate, the City Attorney or his designee may require that the employee be subpoenaed to economize time and insure fairness to all parties.

4.    In the event that an employee is faced with a situation to which the foregoing guidelines do not specifically cover, the employee must exercise good judgment, and should defer providing the requested information until the employee receives appropriate guidance from his or her supervisor or the City Attorney.

REFERENCE:    None.

RECISION:    This policy rescinds and supersedes Council Policy No. 36 dated August 23, 1994.  This policy shall be in effect until rescinded.




JOHN T. MARLEY
MAYOR