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Newspaper Wins Access |to Police Billing Records

(CN) - The Charleston Gazette won its bid to inspect and copy records related to the billing practices of Charleston police officers. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia said the public had a "right to know" if city officers were double billing for work.

The state high court decided that releasing the records would not violate the officers' privacy rights and that the officers did not have a reasonable expectation of the records remaining private.

The ruling reverses a circuit court's decision to dismiss the city's declaratory judgment seeking the right to deny the newspaper's Freedom of Information Act request.

The Gazette requested the records in July 2007, following public allegations that Charleston officers were accepting two paychecks at once by working as private security guards while also on the duty for the city. A police officer who was prosecuted admitted that officers commonly engaged in "double dipping."

Remanding the case, the high court ruled that "(t)he public has a right to know not only who their public employees are, but also when their public employees are and are not performing their duties. We conclude that a records request under the FOIA for disclosure of the numerical data concerning an employee's attendance records, including or limited to sick leave, does not constitute an invasion of personal privacy (and that) disclosure in this instance is required."

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