County employees' names no longer must be published with salaries

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By AJ Vicens

The amount of money paid to each county employee in 2007 was published recently, only this time a job title is listed without any mention of the employee’s name.

The legislature amended state law requiring that employees’ names be published along with salary and benefits information.

The county is required by state law to publish salary information twice per year, once in August and once in February. The published salaries in August report only an employee’s title and gross monthly salary for June. The February notice must include the employee’s title and salary paid over the course of the prior calendar year. Each must also include the countywide average percentage of salary paid as “fringe benefits,” including insurance, retirement plans, housing and transportation.

Some salaries in the most recent list can be misleading, as it includes all money paid to a particular employee, not just salary. For instance, an employee could have received a payout of vacation and sick time, and that total would be included. There are no details of that breakdown, however, so it may appear the employee received more money in base salary than she actually did.

One seeming anomaly appeared in the listing for the county commissioners’ office, as four elected officials are listed as receiving payment in 2007, even though there are only three elected commissioners. The list includes the salaries of District 1 Commissioner Jim Congrove and District 2 Commissioner Kevin McCasky, both listed at $63,203. District 3 Commissioner Kathy Hartman’s salary of $81,703 is also listed (Hartman was elected after Congrove and McCasky, and a raise was approved by the state after Congrove and McCasky were elected). There is also a fourth “elected official” listed in the commissioners’ office, which is a $4,091.99 payment. That is the amount paid to former Commissioner Dave Auburn in January 2007 in the days before Kathy Hartman took over his seat.

Kathyrn Heider, spokeswoman for Jefferson County, would not offer an opinion on whether employees’ names should be listed with their salaries, other than to say that “we follow the law” when it comes to publishing the information.

A county employee who did not want to give her name for this article said that publishing the names only feeds animosity among employees and serves as a fodder for internal gossip.

That sentiment was echoed loudly in Sacramento, Calif., last week when the Sacramento Bee obtained a state-maintained database of state employees’ names and salaries and posted it online.

“There is no reason why you need to post employees' names,” commented one person on the paper’s website. “Classifications and salaries are fine, but as a safety issue, names should NOT be listed.”

The majority of the 371 comments left on the website related to the paper’s decision to make it easy to search a state employee’s name and find out where that person worked. Other comments said that since the salaries are taxpayer-funded, they should be in the public domain, a sentiment echoed by the Bee’s editor, Melanie Sill.

“This simply is public information and part of our broader push ee to make public information accessible to the public,” Sill said in an e-mail to the Courier. As to whether names should be listed, and not just job titles and divisions, Sill said the names are essential. “Names are a fundamental part of the public record,” Sill said. “Essentially this is part of the public checkbook register. The information belongs to the public, not state employees. Because it's the public checkbook, the public should know the name of every payee and the amount paid.”

The list of county salaries can be found at www.columbinecourier .com.