Sac Bee to publish county salaries?

I have learned that The Bee has filed a Public Records Act for “2007 base salary and overtime records, including employee name, department, and job title” for all employees of Sacramento County. Apparently the Bee is planning to compile a database and release all the information on its website, as it did earlier this year for State of CA workers.

This raises all the same issues as that project, concerning workers’ privacy, safety, and the public benefit of this level of public records releasing by the Bee. Bee editor Melanie Sill answered some of those FAQs back in March. I feel the same way I did then when RonTopofIt brought it to our attention, but even moreso in this case. County workers are a smaller group, so a smaller distribution of folks will be distributed in the lower end of the scale. These are the folks who do the heavy lifting, for pay most likely lower than comparable jobs in the private sector. None of Ms. Sill’s arguments persuades me that a simple listing of pay ranges for specific job classifications, with specific data for top salaries and elected officials, would not sufficiently satisfy the public’s interest in this matter where the Bee is concerned. Nor does Sill’s, well, somewhat snarky aside that “Simple internet searches might show you that your address and phone number, for instance, are available online through other sources.”

With this go-round, I am also thinking more about the safety angle. Many of these County folks are going to be on the “front lines” dealing with disgruntled “customers” — think county nurses or people working in CPS. More specific information about their jobs might put undo stress on those workers. This seems in especially bad taste since we assume the data will point since these employees don’t have the luxury of security or a phalanx of admin assistants to run interference–they are the ones handing out needles to drug users or checking up on deadbeat parents.

I know I’m probably being a little silly, but so I would contend is the Bee. Silly and way off base. A cursory glance at the comments on Sill’s editorial reveals that I am by no means alone in my reasoning. The readers see through Sill’s and the Bee’s silly logic and reveal their outrage at the Bee’s lack of perspective. The negative comments range from “How much do you make printing this trash?” to “you could have used job position and salary not my FULL NAME WHEN I JUST LEFT A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RELATIONSHIP!” Eek.

But let’s say for a minute that we do accept the overall legitimacy of this database, and Sill’s reasoning. The database still only provides limited functionality that can only really be used to pinpoint specific salaries. Absurdly, there is no easy way with the Bee’s database tool to access the total State payroll, which of course nobody would disagree is of great public interest these days. Sill herself is quoted, shockingly in her own paper’s story about SEIU’s picketing of her paper in March, that the “information on government spending is of public interest, particularly at a time when our state faces a widening budget crisis.” If you want to know how much the state is spending on payroll, however, you’ll have to do the math yourself.

For the record, I don’t have a problem with all of the Bee’s database projects — I think the food inspection database is a great service, for example. But their whole conception of the public worker salary database overshoots the mark. It has become obvious that McClatchy’s financial trouble, combined with the relevancy slide of establishment journalism in general, is creating a more and more irresponsible Sacramento Bee. I think it is time for the Bee’s more sober-minded staff to demand new direction.

Author: CoolDMZ

"X-ray vision to see in between / Where's my kimono and my time machine?"

24 thoughts on “Sac Bee to publish county salaries?”

  1. In all fairness, if the Bee is going to keep pushing this info out there, then, regardless that they are a private entity, they should publish their own salary database. But my guess is they would find such a suggestion outrageous.

    To be clear, I am not a public employee so their actions have no direct effect on me. But I fail to see why we need to know the income of every single low-level employee, state, county, private, whatever. As you say, the bigger picture information would serve the public much better.

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  2. it reminds me of the cbs 13 sign off business 80 that reads, “do state workers make more money than me?”

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  3. Great story, chief.

    I just wonder what the point is, besides to increase web traffic and justify online advertising revenues. The information is already public, so if someone really needs this info, they can go find it.

    I think that most people using this database would be doing it for the sake of being disgruntled and finding another reason to reinforce their beliefs that our government is a big waste and should be done away with.

    I also think it is irresponsible to include names in this database. At the very least, if the Bee is to engage in this activity, they should list job titles, not names.

    And, for disclosure, I am not a government employee, but I do work in the “governing” sector, meaning that I interact with government employees. I have also been worked at both the State and County level in the past. In general, I agree with the notion that there is government waste, but think that the “baby with the bathwater” attitude that some espouse is naive and ridiculous.

    This database is just fuel for the fire and serves no positive purpose, in my mind.

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  4. Yeah I should point out that I too agree that State of CA is a wasteful government. I just think my beef is not with Suzy Smith, analyst at the board of reclamation, don’t you think $37,000 is too much? How many shoes do you need Suzy, WTF!!! My beef is with the incomptentents in the legislature.

    If the County is wasting money I would be more than happy to tar and feather Roger Dickinson. Though something about him makes me think he would enjoy it.

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  5. Why not REALLY shock everyone and just publish the percentage of the “working population” employed by city/state/federal govt?!? Would be suprising to learn that 25% of the working population is employed by these non-producing entities, no? Then you add in the SSDI, welfare, and other “entitlement”-receiving people (of working age, thereby excluding senior citizens) and you find that ONE THIRD of the working-age population is entirely dependant on taxes paid by the other 66% of the stiffs who actually produce something with their work. Hmmm

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  6. It pisses me off. I’m a State worker and don’t appreciate the invasion of my privacy. As was said, why couldn’t they just put classifications out there versus people’s names? You could still get the CalPERS’ CIO’s income if you put in Chief Investment Officer versus the person’s name. There are people out there that are dealing with abuse, litigation, divorce, etc. When will they put all the Bee’s salaries up there too?

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  7. Hahaha! Govt workers also pay taxes?!? With WHAT, pray tell, do they “pay taxes”? That’s a good one Rodger.

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  8. Where does that “one-third” number come from? Sounds suspiciously like a Limbaugh statistic.

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  9. Turty Squip: It’s almost like you’re trying to be a douchebag on purpose. Government workers pay payroll and income tax, sales tax, etc., same as everyone else. Being employed by the government is in no way comparable to being entirely dependent on soc sec or welfare for income.

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  10. Matt: Bee = Craigslist is egggscelent.

    C: I feel your pain. It seems like a large group of people who feel the same as you could conceivably use whatever transparency the Bee practices to find a list of advertisers who are helping the Bee make money off the use of the data. I’m just saying.

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  11. I think it sucks that the Bee has to do this kind of thing to drive people to their website, but they are just trying to stay afloat at this point.

    But at the same time, how many of the people complaining that their salaries have been posted online have also used the database to look up their co-workers salaries?

    If nobody was interested in the numbers then the database wouldn’t be so popular. Admit it, we’re a society of nosy snoopers.

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  12. Being employed by the government is in no way comparable to being entirely dependent on soc sec or welfare for income… except that, 1) like the douchebags on SSDI, govt workers don’t PRODUCE or ADD anything to the economy, and 2) they actually steal my earned money to pay their salaries. Yeah, they work. But why not eliminate half of ’em, and cut my taxes by half?

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  13. Okay, TS, my curiosity has gotten the best of me. What is it that you do, exactly, that is so important to the economy yet still affords you the time for multiple blog comments during the workday?

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  14. Turty Squip is a complete idiot and has never taken an introduction to public policy or econ, obviously.

    They don’t produce or add anything? Neither do 90% of big business employees, under that definition.

    Police don’t either. I don’t hear you bitching about them.

    I spent 10 hours a day – minus a 45 minute lunch break where I read this blog on hot days – protecting the public, 6 days a week.

    Yes, we steal your money. Because you don’t need roads. Or, you know, clean food. Or a 5 day workweek. Or fire protection. Or schools.

    Being part of the social contract means agreeing to invest in our infrastructure and future. If you don’t feel like being part of this, and are willing to forego all of those things, then leave. We don’t want you as part of our culture.

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  15. “Big business” doesn’t directly steal from my paycheck. They can do whatever they want with their employees.
    I’m not saying that ALL government work is unnecessary: I’m saying that it should not take 2 real workers to support each govt worker.

    Part of the social contract includes ALL able working- and every 18 to 55 year old idiot on “SSDI” or having kids while on welfare is breaking that contract. What are YOU, FRANK, doing to enforce that part of the contract, during your 10 hours a day “protecting the public”? Or is that part of the social contract “not your responsability?” Then exactly who can I call about getting that enforced? (“Call your congressperson”- snort)

    To answer HeyMeg, I’m part of the anti-socialist, privately-funded, “people for a better society in 100 years” movement. We rouse rabble in an effort to get people to use their brains again, and question things like “is this social program to help transgender Muslim one-legged drug addicted Hispanic sexual offenders integrate back into society (measured by not raping kids any more) something we even want to be doing in the first place.” The hope is that some incredulity will return to the masses, afer realizing that current society is outspending itself (i.e. stealing producer’s money earned through working) to benifit fringe weirdo dead-end pointless programs (e.g.: try taking your 3 year old to splash on the banks of the river without a life jacket), while ignoring bigger issues, like “who is training today’s kids how to run the country, speak and utilize the (that’s a ‘T’, ‘H’, ‘E’) language, deal with aggressive societies, and think about technical/scientific problems?”

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  16. That’s adorable TS but you still dodged the employer question. Honestly, I don’t believe you’d ever be so obnoxious and hostile without the benefit of an anonymous nickname but you could prove me wrong by identifying yourself and stating your true occupation assuming you have one.

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  17. When Hey Meg fesses up to the slight conflict of interest regarding this topic, I’m happy to provide a statement of my “true occupation,” assuming I have one.

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  18. I’m not sure what conflict you mean. That I work for a public entity? I actually thought it was known. At any rate disclosure of conflicts is only relevant when credibility is desired; frankly in corresponding with you TS it’s not that important to me. Anyway if you’re implying something else just come out and say it. Reading between the lines isn’t exactly worth the effort for the sake of a complete doofus like you.

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  19. My credibility my be questioned with facts refuting my factual assertions. Still waiting…

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