State Controller John Chiang announced on Tuesday that he will require new reporting by cities and counties that will clearly identify salaries of public employees and elected officials. That information will then be posted on the Controllers Web site in November.
“The absence of transparency is a breeding ground for waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars,” Chiang said in a statement. “A single website with accessible information will make sure that excessive pay is no longer able to escape public scrutiny and accountability.”
Currently, local government must provide summary information about revenues and expenditure to the Controller’s office. The payroll information is given as a whole for each category or program, but does not provide the salaries for each classification of elected official or public employee.
Undoubtedly, the new reporting requirement is fallout from the compensation scandal in the city of Bell that broke weeks ago and follows the request last week from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for cities and counties to report salary information.
The controller’s new requirement is good news to those local government employees who never had anything to hide in the first place.
Chris McKenzie, Executive Director of the League of California Cities, believes that this will help defend the majority of public employees who work ethically and who are compensated fairly.
“I think it’s really important to everybody that the true story of what is going on in local government and state government is being disclosed to the public,” McKenzie said in a phone interview with PublicCEO.
“I think that it is a move in the right direction of getting these salaries released to the public. The League strongly supports what the controller is doing.”
McKenzie noted the growing trend of cities already posting these figures on their respective city Web sites but said it will be good to have all that information centralized on the Controller’s Web site.
Paul McIntosh, Executive Director of the California State Association of Counties, posted in his blog on Tuesday that Chiang has the support of the counties.
“The poor choices of a few must not tarnish the reputations and honor of thousands of dedicated public servants,” McIntosh wrote. “For local government to effectively operate, it must have public trust. While that trust has been temporarily eroded, the Controller’s new requirements will help to restore the belief – and fact – that local government is here to serve the people.”
According to the release from Chiang’s office, cities and counties generally are required to provide the information to the Controller by mid-October of each year. Those local governments that fail to report timely could face a penalty of up to $5,000.
James Spencer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org