Mixed Bag On Disclosure Of Retiree Home Addresses

Kenneth Fultz submitted a request to the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System for the names and home addresses of retired law enforcement officers or judges, the names and addresses of individuals residing with the retirees, and the names and addresses of the beneficiaries of non-law enforcement retirees who were over the age of 60. In addition, Fultz specifically asked for the first names of law enforcement retirees. The System balked at the request, and the dispute wound up before Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court.

The Court began by reciting a provision in Pennsylvania’s public records law that the home addresses of law enforcement officers and judges were exempt from disclosure. Expanding on that notion, the Court noted that “it is clear that the purpose of this unconditional protection afforded to the home addresses of law enforcement officers and judges is to reduce the risk of physical harm/personal security to these individuals that may arise due to the nature of their job duties. Permitting access to the home address of a law enforcement officer or judge in response to a public records request seeking the address of a family member or beneficiary of one of these at-risk individuals would erode the purpose of this express exemption. We thus hold that the law exempts from access the home addresses of law enforcement officers and judges even when the requester is seeking the address of an individual who also resides at the exempt address.”

The Court found that the request for the first names of retirees was on a different footing. The Court recited the fact that the System “did not offer any actual evidence that disclosure of the law enforcement officers’ first names would be reasonably likely to result in a substantial and demonstrable risk of harm to the officers’ personal security. The exemption only expressly exempts a law enforcement officer’s home address, not their names.”

As to the home addresses of non-law enforcement retirees over the age of 60, the System argued that a “personal security” exemption in the public records law applied, and that older retirees were in a “class of vulnerable retirees, or their beneficiaries, who would suffer financial fraud, financial exploitation, financial abuse, or theft as a result of such disclosure.” Once again, the Court found the System’s evidence wanting, commenting that the affidavits of the System’s expert witnesses “do not opine that the risk to the personal security by the disclosure of the home addresses is a risk that is common to all of the SERS members and their beneficiaries who are over the age of 60. To the contrary, these affidavits only support a statistical likelihood of increased vulnerability from age-related cognitive impairment to a certain percentage of the population.

“For example, one expert opines that: (1) long-term studies suggest that 10% to 20% of people aged 65 and older may have mild cognitive impairment; (2) research shows that approximately 10% of the general population over age 70 has cognitive impairment; (3) research shows that approximately 20% of the general population over age 80 has cognitive impairment; and (4) by age 80 the risk of cognitive impairment increases by approximately 5% per year. The affidavits do not contain any averments that the SERS members and their beneficiaries over age 60 whose addresses are requested here fall within these percentages such that they would be subject to the same potential risk to their personal security.”

State Employees’ Retirement System, 2015 WL 116060 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2015).Di Luzio v. City of Santa Fe, 2015 WL 178396 (N.M. App. 2015).