Our View: Salaries shouldn’t be secret | CraigDailyPress.com

Our View: Salaries shouldn’t be secret

The 2005 legislative session will be the first time in years that Colorado Counties Inc. hasn’t fought a state statute that requires counties to publish the names and salaries of each employee on the payroll.

State statute requires counties to publish this information in legal newspapers twice a year. CCI, a lobbyist group of all Colorado’s counties, argues that this violates the privacy of county employees.

The group has tried a variety of avenues to change this statute. In previous years, CCI has sought bill sponsors to push legislation that would publish positions rather than names. CCI has tried to publish names on one page and salaries on a separate page. The group also has tried to post legal notices, notifying taxpayers where they can acquire the information.

The efforts always have failed, and rightfully so. When a person works for the government, he or she works for the public. The public has a right to know who is working for it and what those people are being paid.

In 2006, according to the Colorado Press Association, CCI might push to publish salaries on their Web sites.

CCI likely is trying to prove that newspapers only are concerned about getting paid to post the salary information.

It’s true that publishing salary information as a paid legal notice brings revenue to a newspaper. But journalists view this as an open records issue, not a financial one.

As Jon Caldara, the director of the Independence Institute, told the Boulder Daily Camera in January: “The core of open government is open records, particularly when it comes to budget issues.”

The newspaper is one of the most easily accessible ways to share information. Counties realize that if salaries were published on the Internet, far fewer people would see the information. That’s why they want to change their method of publication — to reduce the publicity their payroll receives.

That would be a shame, especially if there were instances in which county employees were being grossly overpaid or underpaid.

Consider the 2003 and 2004 budget cycles when Moffat County employees complained that they didn’t receive raises. When government employees are receiving low pay, it only can benefit them for the public to know it. Perhaps some concerned residents will pressure county commissioners to pay employees what they deserve.

Some county commissioners have complained that it is unfair to require only counties to publish payroll information.

This is one point we can agree on. It is just as important for school districts and municipalities to provide this information to taxpayers in an easily accessible manner as it is for counties to do so.

Teacher salaries frequently are a source of controversy. But such controversies wouldn’t surprise the public if people received biannual updates regarding teacher pay.

We’d like to see a state senator or representative sponsor legislation to require school districts and municipalities to publish payrolls. This would create a fair situation for all local governments. Realizing that all members of the public were going to see this information, it might force schools and cities to take a harder look at their personnel and pay, too.

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