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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Is ET Public Payroll Database TMI?

The Express Times has managed to compile a payroll database for all public employees in several local Northampton County municipalities. While it's nice to know who is making lots of money, I question whether it is an invasion of privacy for many low level clerks who are just trying to keep their heads above water. Now all their nosy neighbors can see how much money they make, and what public interest is served?

Under the Right-to-Know Act, this is all certainly public information. But just because you have the right to ask for something, doesn't mean you should. It is this kind of behavior that results in laws that will prevent disclosure of this kind of information when it is really needed. Then when real violations of transparency occur, like when NorCo Council member Mat Benol advocates for violations of the Sunshine Act, the Express Times looks the other way.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why doesn`t the Express Times and Morning Call publish all their salaries ?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Exactly. I'm all for transparency, but don't think it's a good idea to publish this information just bc you can.

Anonymous said...

Uh, because they are a private enterprise that doesnt' extract their revenue through the force of law?

When we are forced to pay, when the money is appropriated by those who ask for our vote and pledge to represent us, we have a right to know. Those papers can't force us to give them money. They have the right to withold that information, knowing full well that some may choose to not subscribe or to not patronize their advertisers if they object. They take a risk.

Hurry back to the trough, before someone gets your spot.

-Clem

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't know why, Clem, but your comment went to spam. This is one time where I caught it right away.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No question that the public has a right to know , just as every citizen has a right to speak at every meeting . Just bc you have that right does not mean it should be exercised. I see no public interest served by divulging financial information for low level workers just bc you can. This is how good laws get perverted.

Anonymous said...

As long as they're being paid with my money, I have a right to know where every dime is paid. Employees of the newspapers aren't taking my money as compensation and I don't care about them. Nobody forced anyone to work for the government. If you do, you work for me and I want to know every little thing about our employment contract. If you don't like it, you are free to work for a newspaper or to blog for your supper.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Having a right and being an asshole about it are two different things. This was bush league and got some municipalities while ignoring others.

Anonymous said...

I get what you are saying but as a public employee, I know my salary is for public consumption. While it is embarrassingly low, I sometimes think I want everyone to see it so they can stop complaining that public employees get paid too much.

Anonymous said...

I love how they post the names and part time wages of kids!

Anonymous said...

PS: The ET is irresponsible at best in doing this. They put people at risk. If someone wants to know the names and wages of local municipal summer workers, then go to the municipality and ask. Putting these scarlet letter databases on their silly website serves no public purpose at all. Have to agree with OH on this one.

Anonymous said...

Bernie: I agree with you 100% on this one. Plus average readers will not be able to differentiate the well qualified and competent staffs at the townships from the career bureaucrats at the cities. Where's the LVPC salaries? I'd hate to see the competent local employees get their salaries exposed while very large LVPC staff gets to fly under the radar.

Anonymous said...

There are thousands of employees whose jobs are subsidized by public monies, like the LVPC, or those now in the NIZ. Are the salaries of the employees who work in the NIZ public info? Why not?

Anonymous said...

Why do school districts get a pass? Thats where the real money is!

Anonymous said...

Most public employees salaries are lower than the private sector. The slaries of the public servant must be public information to ascertain things do not get out of line. I don't necessarily believe that the individuals names have to be mentioned for all government positions, but if and when something is out of wack, it should be made public. When there is abuse of a person's position like the nurse at Gracedale that was paid more than $110,000.00 it should be reported. What was sad about that was the fact she was allowed to rig her schedule and no one did anything about it. She scammed the County. Her pension is based on her last three years of salary and now we pay for her forever. That should have been investigated after it was reported but nothing was done.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they should include the health and pension benefits as well.

That would be a more accurate figure for the true cost to the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

"Having a right and being an asshole about it are two different things." - Bernie O'Hare

The pot calling the kettle black.

Anonymous said...

I think the ET went overboard. They are allowed under the law to do this, but people do also have a right to some privacy.

Even though they are allowed to publish this, they could do so by leaving the salary, and the position public, and redacting the actual names. People can draw their own conclusions when they read "clerk or Sergant, or Chief"

Anonymous said...

As a non-taxpayer I don't believe I have the right to see how much public employees earn in overtime pay.

Anonymous said...

"Having a right and being an asshole about it are two different things. This was bush league and got some municipalities while ignoring others."

Nobody forced government employees to work for public wages that might be scrutinized by assholes. If you take a government job, you should expect the asshole treatment.

School districts do not get a pass. Salaries are easily obtained and some are shocking. The problem isn't TMI. It's not enough information. Context is provided regularly at contract negotiation time, for those who pay attention.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, they do. So do municipalities that dragged their feet in answering the RTK. What the ET did is punish municipalities that were forthcoming while rewarding those that delayed. It's a half-assed report that basically does nothing more than harass low level workers. What kills me is that, as someone who attends meetings all the time, I can tell you this paper is no transparency watchdog. A month ago, a County Council member advocated wholesale violations of the Sunshine Act. Shortell write no story, probably bc he is overworked. I sent two editors a link to the video. They are not overworked and they wrote no story or editorial. I have been to meetings where blatant sunshine act violations have occurred, like in Plainfield last year, and reporters from both dailies and 69 sat on their hands while I had to raise the violation. If this was a public service designed to inform the public, where is Palmer Tp? Lehigh County? Allentown? Where is the story taking those municipalities to task for not following RTK? The ET did no favors for the public. They did no favors for people who do like to use the law as an investigative tool when needed. They used it to file a harassing request designed solely to embarrass those who work in the public sector. For the reader who said he or she does not mind, my guess is most of your colleagues feel differently, but good for you.

Anonymous said...

The salaries indicate lower level employees are underpaid and there are too many highly paid career administrators. The information is very instructive. Too many chiefs for the number of underpaid Indians.

Anonymous said...

"Why do school districts get a pass? Thats where the real money is!"

THANK YOU!!! I agree completely, where are the school teachers, adminsitrators, janitors etc.? Also publish the amount of tuition money granted to school district employees for mickey mouse on-line masters degrees to get more money!

Nice Comment!

Bernie O'Hare said...

10:06, Assuming your theory is correct, and I dispute that you are correct, that point could be made without identifying these low-level employees.

Anonymous said...

Publishing salaries is akin to when an upstate NY newspaper published the names and addresses of all registered gun owners. And then mapped it for the world to see. It just gets people bothered and its usually because an editor has an ax to grind.

There is a fine line. I find the release of names and salaries uncomfortably personal because it's regular people doing a job. They don't set the salary.

Should we map the salary data too so we can find where everyone lives?

Where do you say enough? Gun owners? Salaries? People registered with Obamacare? People who receive unemployment?

Anonymous said...

As a former public teacher, I was aware when I signed up that my salary was public information.

I suppose I can't object to teachers' and administrators' salaries being published on an annual basis, since they comprise so large a piece of the tax pie. However, when it comes to town clerks and school administrative assistants and the like, who comprise a small percentage of costs, I don't see the point or usefulness. If someone wants to see this information, they can go get it.

Anonymous said...

I reacted similarly when you posted on John Brown's voting record, as I view voting as the act/prerogative of a private citizen.

Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a Jim Deegan stunt.

Bernie O'Hare said...

My thought is that a private citizen who wants to become an elected public official should have demonstrated an interest in public matters and sets a poor example by not bothering to vote.

Anonymous said...

"My thought is that a private citizen who wants to become an elected public official should have demonstrated an interest in public matters and sets a poor example by not bothering to vote."

They should also pay their taxes in a timely manner!

Anonymous said...

If you take the argument of some of the commenters here, then I want to know what the government pays people in social security, by name. No difference. How many of these detractors would offer their social security for all to see?

Anonymous said...

The bigger issue is if the government "reform" types get their wish and public employees home addresses become public record. As a government employee I have no issue with openness. However; as a government employee who has sent people to state prison I'll be the first to admit that there is a line in the sand that shouldn't be crossed.

Hank_Hill

Anonymous said...

SS is none of your business because it's a managed trust fund. Nobody's releasing addresses except lefties who don't like gun owners.

Anonymous said...

"Why do school districts get a pass? Thats where the real money is!"

It is posted online.


http://www.openpagov.org/k12_payroll.asp

Anonymous said...

Re: Spam -

It only happens from this laptop. Scanned the shit out of it with mse, mbam, SAS, tdss killer anti-rootkit, nothing found. But something has to be hitching a ride with my comments that is tripping your filter. Haven't had the chance to have a pro look at it yet.

A bummer, but good to know it isn't intentional moderation.

-Clem

Bernie O'Hare said...

Just happened again. You're probably on some NSA watch list.

Anonymous said...

"SS is none of your business because it's a managed trust fund."

Yeah, that's what I thought. A double standard, that's unacceptable to detractors.

Anonymous said...

Each year they publish these salaries and each year they have the same findings, Union employees padding their paychecks with overtime, and each year the administration says "we are looking at ways to stop this" and tells the public the same BS. We had to cover the shifts because we don't have enough employees, but we are looking to hire so we can cut the OT, or they give the excuse they have workers out on Workers comp or long term sick. It's the same old story year after year. Pad your check for the final 3 years and set yourself up for a nice retirement pension on the backs of the tax payers. Administration lets this happen, complains about it but does nothing to stop it. How does an employee making a base salary of say $59,000 end up making $110,000? The administrators or department heads should be held accountable, but they could care less, it's not their money. One more thing, every year we see these high salaries, and nothing every changes, what does showing them to the tax payer do? Not like the tax payer can do anything about it. Bernie is correct about the low level wages, and it clearly shows the pay gap between the high and the low.

Anonymous said...

@831

http://articles.philly.com/2014-02-02/news/46901205_1_home-addresses-open-records-simon-campbell

Hank_Hill

Mary Brenda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Brenda said...

Having a right about it are two different things. This was bush league and got some municipalities while ignoring others.

Payroll business

hris said...

Well, i would say that if you look at some of the commenters here, then I want to know what the government pays people in social security, by name. No difference. How many of these detractors would offer their social security for all to see?

human resource planning

Anonymous said...

The Lvpc staff is 12, that isnt large