Saturday, January 30, 2010

Should the pay of Utah public employees and bureaucrats be public record?

There is a bill being sponsored in the state legislature that would end publicizing the salary specifics of non-elected and non-appointed public employees. HB266 is being sponsored by Rep Powell of Heber City, which was supposedly inspired by the Heber City payroll manager who claimed publicized salary information of employees was causing "strife" in the workplace.

Although this bill seems harmless, who doesn't want to protect public employees privacy, it would set a bad precedence. Despite the fact that the bill would still provide salary ranges and titles of public employees, it would diminish the rights of taxpayers to know specifics of how their tax dollars are being spent and on whom. Especially in smaller governments, I suspect that nepotism/cronyism is a problem, or at least a perceived problem in Utah. In 2004, Salt Lake County Mayor Workman was charged for using nepotism and County funds. Last year, the Mayor of the small Utah metropolis Stockton attempted to fire a cop for citing his son. Allowing public governments to withhold names of public employees would only increase (1) nepotism/cronyism in city and county governments and/or (2) increase the perception of nepotism/cronyism in these governmental organizations.

Moral of the story is limiting public access to government information is never a good thing. Public employees must realize, and I believe most do, that they are being paid with entrusted funds and that the public has the right to know anything they want about the use of those funds. While I agree with the bills (no doubt) earnest concerns to protect public employees from identity theft, I don't believe the state's city and county officials need to be handed a information vault to do so. State law doesn't require the publishing of SSN's of public employees just the names, titles, and income.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a public employee. I am also a foster parent who takes in abused children. What if an abusive parent found out where I work and then followed me home from work to find the children?

Sometimes there are endangered children who are put at risk. Identity theft is one example of several risks associated with this.