Government Salaries: We Have a Right To Know

(Crossposted on Annapolis Politics)

The Capital recently published a list of the county’s >$100,000 salaries, with the names of the people who receive them. Since then, there has been nothing less than a barrage of letters to the editor from people claiming that this was an improper invasion of the privacy of those people.

Let me quote from one of those letter writers, Karen Cropper of Severna Park, who basically says what everyone else has been saying:

To disclose their names for thousands of readers to see was an invasion of their privacy.

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This statement worries me, and I’ll tell you why. So many people seem to perceive some type of disconnect from their money and money that governments spend. If you were to own a business, wouldn’t you make sure your employees are doing what you want? You are paying them, after all. Well, the county is the same way. WE pay all of the salaries for government employees, and we have a right to know what they are. We even have a right to know the names associated with the salaries, so if we believe that a particular employee is deficient or wasting OUR MONEY, we can use proper channels to do something about it.

These salaries are on the public record.

Yes they are. In fact, I called the county, and after being told to hold 5 times (the first person who I talked to said the information was not a matter of public record, so I persisted) I was finally transferred to Andrea Fulton, the county Personnel Officer. She confirmed that this information was covered by the public information act, and if you sent a written or email request, they would furnish the information within 30 days as required by law. I spoke with Erin Cox, the reporter that wrote this story, and she said all she did was call the county and ask for a list of everybody who made more than $100,000. So what’s the big deal if The Capital published this information? If you ask me, they did us a favor by taking the time to do this research.

However, most members of the general public would not seek out the names of these people.

That’s because most people are too lazy or don’t care enough. The fact is, we can if we want to. Another fact is, we have a right to do this because we pay these people to govern our lives.

Would a private company have given out this information?

Does private company = public government?

It would have been sufficient to disclose the number of principals, assistants, county firefighters, and others who make that amount of money.

No… it wouldn’t have. These government employees–the ones that make over $100,000–affect our lives as much, if not more, than the elected officials. They pick the teachers that teach our kids, they draw up the budget that spends our tax dollars, they are the heads of the departments that make up the entirety of our government. We need to know who these people are so we can determine if they are worth our expense.

In the case of firefighters’ overtime, the fact that we knew this information led to a fourth shift of firefighters, a consequent reduction in overtime, and the first fire department budget that has not been exceeded since fire was discovered. (Note: exaggeration.)

Bottom line: we have a right to know because it’s our money, and the more you know–the more good things happen.

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