Sala IV says the salaries of public employees are an open record

The constitutional court ruled that the right of the public to know the salaries of public employees transcends the individual right of privacy.

The case stemmed from a request by a man, identified in a brief Poder Judicial summary as Alejandro Fernández Sanabria, sought salary information from the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. He wanted data from 1990 to 2013. The Caja is financially troubled and the topic of much political discussion.

His request was denied. The Caja does not seem to be behaving arbitrarily but, instead, relying on the new Ley de Protección de la Persona frente al Tratamiento de sus Datos Personales. The Caja also seems to have said finding the data would take too much time.

However, the Sala IV constitutional court said that when information is public a citizen is not required to justify a request for information by saying why it is needed. Instead, the state has the responsibility to make the information accessible by means of the technological methods at its disposal.

The court did agree that some information about public employees is personal and should not be divulged.

In the case of the Caja the court said the agency must respond to the citizen in a month and tell him how long it would take to put the information sought together and how much the effort will cost him.

The privacy law is being observed by others in the Poder Judicial. Court workers have begun purging the names of individuals involved in cases from records that are released to the pubic.

That has brought an outcry from private investigators and others who require the names to check credit and employment records.

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