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Monday, March 02, 2009

On putting state employee salaries online

In the continuing saga of how to make Illinois government more transparent, the debate turns to whether or not to put state employee salaries on the web. They talked about it last week on Capitol Fax, where we learned, among other things:

  • The Sun-Times has a searchable database of various public employee salaries. The problem with this is, it's as of last August, and combines state, CTA, City of Chicago, and Cook County employees. I tried using it and found it to be difficult. Also, the Sun-Times serves pop-under ads on its web pages, which is not exactly ideal.
  • The Better Government Association also has an out of date database. I tried it, but before you can search it, they want you to sign-up so they can send you their monthly newsletter.
  • It was also pointed out that salary information is already public record and can be looked up by anyone through the state Comptroller's Office. They want your name, email address, street address, phone, and state agency, if applicable. You can request up to three records and they will either call you or email it to you.
  • Missouri has a very slick web app called the Missouri Accountability Portal (MAP), which includes employees, expenditures, tax credits, and "who is not paying." I poked around in MAP and it looks like just what we need in Illinois.

Not surprisingly, it seems the consensus among state employees is not to put their salaries on the web. And their union is backing them up (SJ-R: Posting salaries of state workers on Web meets resistance). They've got lots of reasons, none of which outweigh the public's right to know.

The State Journal-Register wants the salaries on line: Our Opinion: State salary data ought to be online:

The public policy reason for making salary data and other information, including disciplinary records (currently exempted from disclosure under state law), available to the public seems clear to everyone except public employee unions: These employees work for and are paid by the people of Illinois.
We understand AFSCME’s objection. Nobody wants their neighbor or a stranger to snoop around to see how much money they make. But such information becomes relevant when government abuses its trust and must be held accountable.

Or, as one commenter so eloquently said, put it all on line and let the cockroaches hide in the corners. Or something like that. I can't find the specific comment right now. Anyway, I agree. Just put it in a useful format like the aforementioned MAP.

Posted by Marie at March 2, 2009 9:35 PM


having my salary online doesn't bother me too much, but disciplinary records? that's too far.

Posted by: jason at March 2, 2009 10:59 PM

Sure salaries are public record and technically are (and should be) available. But let’s get real. The only reason anyone would want to see the rank and file salaries is to bitch about how “highly and overpaid” state workers are. Yawn.

Posted by: Dave at March 3, 2009 9:18 AM

They're online in Louisiana, too, but I'm not wild about making it so convenient. I think citizens should have to at least file a request to see a non-elected person's salary.

Posted by: Rob Author Profile Page at March 3, 2009 10:06 AM

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