HARRISBURG - An e-mail from the state notifying 80,000 employees that an individual was seeking payroll data triggered a surge of queries from worried workers, flooding phones and briefly shutting down computers.

At issue is a Bucks County school board member's request for records of workers' donations to union political funds.

Terry Mutchler, head of the Office of Open Records, said Wednesday that in the last week, more than 1,000 state workers had called her office - some of them fearful that personal information could be released to the public.

She said the calls outnumbered the information requests prompted by the child sex-abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University. "This just blew that out of the water," she said.

Last week, the state Office of Administration denied a request by Simon Campbell, a Pennsbury school board member, for the names of state workers who donated to union political action committees (PACs) in 2012 via paycheck deductions. For two decades, unionized state employees have had a contract provision allowing such deductions.

The queries came after employees were notified that Campbell is appealing the denial to Mutchler's office. Campbell, a frequent critic of teachers unions, wants to know who gave to the PACs, how much they gave, and what, if any, reimbursements unions made to the state for administrative costs. He calls the system unfair and supports a bill that would end it.

Contact Amy Worden at 717-783-2584.