City fails on records request
We report this week that Chico Police Chief Bruce Hagerty has filed a workers'-compensation claim with the city for a work-related health problem (see “Chief wants workers’ comp,” Newslines, page 8). While the chief, who is a public official, remains frustratingly mum on the matter, we have to say at this point we’re more disappointed in the city’s stonewalling of our efforts to obtain what we believe to be public information than the chief’s refusal to talk about it.
The city’s argument is that the chief’s private health issues are protected and not for public disclosure. We argue that as a public figure the chief does not enjoy the same protections as a private individual. In short, the chief’s relative health affects us all. The chief is a public servant, and his filing of a workers'-comp case, for which the city is financially liable, is indeed public information.
If the city truly cannot release any health-related information about its employees, it means that, when a police officer is hurt in a vehicle accident while on patrol, for example, or a firefighter suffers smoke inhalation while battling a blaze, the public doesn’t have the right to know about it.
That is absurd, of course. We get this type of information sent to us on a nearly daily basis. The chief’s health, particularly when work-related, is no different and is indeed the public’s business.
If workers'-comp cases are not public information, why then does the state Department of Workers’ Compensation have a request form to facilitate obtaining those very records? Unfortunately for us, the chief’s application isn’t there yet, and we’re forced to deal with the city.