97-02Posted on Mar 11, 1997 in Formal Opinions
Opinion Letter No. 97-02
March 11, 1997
Photograph of Deceased is a Public Record
A government employee’s employment identification photograph, taken approximately ten years before the employee’s death, is a public record. Only living individuals have significant privacy interests; therefore, disclosing a deceased individual’s employee identification photograph would not be an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
However, the deceased’s surviving family members may have privacy interests in the government record which may justify withholding it from public disclosure where: 1) the record is directly connected with the decedent’s death or manner of death and would disclose particularly sensitive, often graphic, personal details about the circumstances surrounding an individual’s death; or 2) the release of the information would disrupt the surviving families’ peace of mind. In this case, however, the identification photograph is completely unrelated to the deceased’s death. Accordingly, the surviving family members do not have a privacy interest in the photograph and it should be disclosed.