August 31, 2009

Walnut Creek and other city salaries online!

I could satisfy my nosy neighbor tendencies, while the rest of you could exercise your higher, civic-minded duties to make sure our tax dollars are properly spent.

Yes, you can now find out how much public employees in Walnut Creek and other public agencies are earning, thanks to the Bay Area News Group, Contra Costa Times included, publishing a very comprehensive database of the salaries of more than 134,000 public employees at 64 entities around the Bay Area.

You can see that, in Walnut Creek, the highest paid staff is City Manager Gary Pokorny who earned a total of $231,446.

Meanwhile, Police Officer Patrick Duggan earned the most overtime: $29,547 to bring his take-home pay to $136,259.

Public safety employees tend to earn the most overtime in any city or county agency. Sure, an officer or firefighter can't just up and leave an emergency or unfolding situation when his or her shift ends. On the other hand, overtime for public employees, including police and firefighters, can be a sort point, especially in these budget-strapped times. I've known of some police chiefs who take pride in being the kind of managers who keep overtime costs down.

Revelations about overtime earned--not by BART police officers--but by certain BART train operators and station agents (in some cases more than double their base pay) made the public unsympathetic to the these workers' complaints in recent negotiations that at one point broke down and almost led to a strike.

Well, there are lots of different ways to play with this database. If you live in another city, you can see who the highest paid staff member is there. In Concord, it’s City Attorney Craig Labadie, with take-home pay of $209,961. The top overtime prize ($78,901, on top of his $96,467 base pay) goes to Police Officer Ronald Turner.

Thomas Peele, the Times “Watchdog” columnist, says that some entities and public employee unions have gone to court to keep this information out of the public record.

“The arguments against the release of the data were largely nonsensical,” Peele writes. One argument is that the release of name, job title and dollar figure “would lead to identity theft and unwanted telemarketing calls. ... There were also hints at times in the arguments, and in e-mails that I got as the case progressed, of an arrogance, an attitude that some public employees don't think their pay is anyone's business but theirs.”

What do you think? Should this information be public? Of course, as an employee of a private company, I wouldn’t have to release my salary information.

Peele’s response to this public versus private release of salary information:

“Public employees, a tiny segment of the California population, get largely a free pass from any of the realities the rest of us face when we go to work in the morning. We pay their salaries, yet some claim we have no right to know the specifics.”


Anonymous said...

"What do you think? Should this information be public? Of course, as an employee of a private company, I wouldn’t have to release my salary information"

What do you mean by private company? Most of us work for publically traded companies. Do I assume that you would not object to have the salaries of all employees working for publically traded companies made accessable through a database, and since the public employe salary database is not restricted to taxpayers only I don't think there is any need to restrict this information to share holder only either.

Soccer Mom said...

Anon 1:57: Legally, I don't have to release it. My salary would not be subject to public records laws. Oh, and my company is not publicly traded.

So, are you saying that public employees shouldn't have to release their salary information? Or, if they do, so should employees of publicly traded companies?

Private companies would probably prefer to keep their salaries private so that employees don't get mad to find out that someone younger or with less experience is making more. Or something like that. They don't want hard feelings among workers, because salaries and raises might be performance based or arbitrary. Well, that's always been my experience. I've never known what co-workers earn.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Soccer Mom if was not clear. I didn't mean you personally. My point is if the arguement is correct that "We pay their salaries, yet some claim we have no right to know the specifics" then shouldn't that apply towards shareholder of publically traded companies?

I guess to some degree one might even go further. I subscribe to the Contra Costa Times and I assume at least in part my subscription pays for their salaries.

By the way I work for a publically traded company. I also own stock in a few companies but never felt that as a shareholder I needed to know individual salaries.

For the public employee salary database I don't find it very useful since I ususally don't really know what a particular job really does what the requirements are and how much sombody in an equivalent job outside the public sector would earn for the same work.

Anonymous said...

One thing that makes those #'s skewed (at least for City of WC employees) is the "other" column, after salary and OT. Everytime you use your accrued vacation, it shows as additional salary, which isn't realistic. Every job has vacations. When I take two weeks off, I didn't really just get a 5K bonus, but that is what it shows in that article. FYI

Anonymous said...

The public should know that the old days where public "servants" (not on the line cops or fire, etc) made less than they would in the private sector and so a pension was justified.

Now though, because govt yanked up the salaries to gain talent, the salaries are often on par, and sometimes higher than the private sector counterparts... and some people who work in govt do not have the same level of education that would be required in the private sector to be in their positions.

But the big thing is the pension plans not managing the funds correctly. They go play golf etc with the investment managers and select them in questionable ways, and then they invest in far too risky a way, and then the underfunded pension obligation balloons. $800 million was CCC's gap last year, if not more after the 2008 fiasco.

so freeze salaries and revise the 1937 Act that allowed for the pensions. Make them work longer than 10 years to get a full pension. Make them be older than 50 to start taking it.

Anonymous said...

BTW, I don't like it posted. Mostly because it's not necessary. You want to know what everyone makes, then let it show "City Manager" or "Chief of Police" or "Police Officer 1" thru "Police Officer 60". Who cares if you know it's Officer Duggan who made 136K vs "Officer #1"??? We don't need another way to remind crooks who the cop is that arrested them and truly how easy it is to then find out that officer's address, phone #, etc.

Anonymous said...

Love it!! First, you can see if you are paid to little and have a better salary that you can talk to with your boss..

Second, publicly traded companies shoud have this database. If I own (stock) a company, as (stock) owner I should have access to the wages.

Third, you can find where these government people live just use PIPL.COM .. So good or bad, with a full name you can find out a LOT about them!

Gotta LOVE the Internet!

Anonymous said...

Hey Soccer Mom,

What about charities information? If I contribute donations to a charity, I'd like to know how much their staff gets paid. How efficient are they being run. What percentage of my hard-earned dollar is funding services, and what percentage is funding salaries? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

The information is great.. It should help workers know what sort of wages they should be asking for or getting.

Way to many businesses will even disipline a worker that discusses their wage.

It is private businesses trying to manipulate the working class. Information is not a bad thing.

Soccer Mom said...

Anon 1:57: You're bringing up a good argument, and I didn't take it personally. I'm a little embarrassed about my salary 'cause it's so pitiful, I guess, I mean compared with what other professionals of my age and education level earn. Then again, I have a job right now.

3:53 p.m. For information about charities, there is a website called GuideStar. You have to register, and you can pay a higher fee for additional services, but, for free and with registration, you should be able to access IRS 990 forms. And those won't break down salaries of all workers, but will give you an idea of what the executive director makes, and what percentage is spent on administration vs. services.

Anonymous said...

Stupid waste of time. I wonder how much time and energy is going into this. Time and energy that could be spent on local reporting. This is part of the reason I don't read the Times anymore. Local journalism is dead for the most part. Blogs are the tiny bright spot.

Anonymous said...

As a retired public sector employee, I think the public definitely has the right to the information. I just question that the employee's name is disclosed in such an anonymous forum. It's one thing for someone to write a public records request requesting one or all salaries for an agency. It's another simply throw out that information and not know how it may be used or who is using it.

My concern is that people get so angry these days. I now now what all of the people who work in Walnut Creek and the County earn these days, I have their names, and with, I have their addresses.

IMO, everyone is entitled to at least a shred of privacy and safety.

Anonymous said...

It's totally fair for public employees' salaries to be published since we pay taxes.

Anonymous said...

First I'm not a public employee, but I'm a taxpayer. I don't see how the I'm paying taxes and thus public employees salaries should be public really is relevant. For me certainly salary ranges would be sufficient.

If you follow the logic of I pay therefore I have the right to know, why don't we post their annual evaluation, well why not the entire HR file on the internet. How about hiring shouldn't they interview with the public? How about having for each position a vote?

Also taxes don't just pay for salaries they do pay for services too. Should we not post the salaries of everybody who receives services? If I pay for police protection of my neighbors, shouldn't I have the right to know what they earn?

In addition if I pay for let's say a plane ticket shouldn't I have a right to know what everybody at that airline earns? I mean I pay for it don't I?

MickeyMartin said...

Privacy is dead, for the most part. While i could care less about the salaries of elected officials, some people feel this type of transparency helps avoid corruption. I think it is interesting that the city manager of Walnut Creek makes more than the Vice President of the United States. I also think it is interesting in a sense that when dealing with not for profit businesses in my travels the big question is what is "reasonable compensation?" I guess 200,000 is about reasonable for the director of an organization with the cost of living in the Bay Area.

Anonymous said...

Public employee's salaries have been public record for many years, but you had to obtain that information thru a public records request.

I'm the retired public sector employee, and I feel that public disclosure IS a good thing. I think taxpayers, ratepayers, and consumers are entitled to accountability from the public sector as they are usually have no choice in supporting our public and government agencies.

My only issue is that when someone submits a public records request, the agency has a record of the person making the request. Sometimes these disclosures generate a lot of resentment and anger in people. Just look at the blog comments on various sites (inc. the CC Times) when salaries are discussed.

IMO, when we disclose the employees' names, and people of the power of obtaining addresses and phone number via the internet, it's potentially dangerous for those employees. I think providing the position name and salary or salary range is adequate when doing mass disclosures. I think that if people need a specific person's salary, they still should have to submit a public records request.

I hope we don't have to learn the hard way.

Anonymous said...

Just a comment, as a resident of Walnut Creek, I find the City to be exceptionally well run. Phone calls get answered, the parks are in good shape, police respond promptly and the summer camp/arts programs are great.

Compared to what you get in terms of "civil service" in other cities, I am happy to pay the salaries/benefits of City employees via my tax dollars. My experience has been in Walnut Creek, the city employees are doing their jobs well, and they deserve to get paid well.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that Anon 4:03 and hold your horses I'm not a public employee just a satified resident and tax payer.

Big Al said...

Gary Skrel makes $9k and his daughter makes $3200! Patrice Olds makes $90k... wow! Hopefully Cindy Silva pays for her seat! She's a bum!

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