Town salaries - personal or public? | July 25, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - July 25, 2008

Town salaries - personal or public?

County is putting staff's salaries online

by Meghan Neal

What if all it took was a mouse click to see the salary of any employee that works for the town of Danville?

The announcement that Contra Costa County staff wages will be made available online has led some to wonder if public employees in town should be held to the same standard.

"I think that the open and honest information regarding taxpayer's dollars is key to successful government," said Danville resident Steve Barnett, who suggested the town follow the county's lead, at the Mayor's Morning on July 11.

The suggestion sparked some discussion at the gathering: Some said it would infringe on people's privacy, while others said it's important for residents to know how their tax dollars are being spent.

"I'm one who loves to give people as much information as they possibly need," said Mayor Candace Andersen. "(But) I tend to lean a little bit more on the privacy side - making sure the information is available but at the same time not so widespread, all over."

Town staff salaries are available to the public by request, at the Danville Town Offices, at 510 La Gonda Way.

Some residents said there's no need to publicize the information further. But not everyone will invest the time to search it out, said Barnett.

"It's important we know: How much are we spending? And, are we spending money where we should be spending it?" he said.

The Board of Supervisors voted in March to publish the wages of the county's roughly 8,500 workers online, in order to help determine fair compensation for employees.

Salaries are established based on surveys that compare pay rates of neighboring counties. However the surveys don't as of now include benefits such as healthcare, which make up a significant chunk of total compensation.

County Supervisors John Gioia and Federal Glover introduced the action to get a more accurate comparison, hoping that with Contra Costa paving the way by putting the information online, other counties will follow suit.

Government transparency is important, said Tomi Van de Brooke, chief of staff to District 3 Supervisor Mary Piepho. The downside is many county employees feel uncomfortable having their personal information published on the Web, she said.

County employees were informed of the action July 1. No date has been set for when salaries will appear online.

Like the county, the Town of Danville conducts comparison surveys to determine fair wages. Every other year it collects information from Bay Area cities that are similar in size and service, such as Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda and Los Gatos.

Those surveys try to take benefits into account, not just base salary, said Andersen.

"It's absolutely important that we're comparing apples to apples," she said. "We want to keep our employees, so we want to make sure they're getting a fair wage."

The annual salaries of Danville town staff start in the $40,000 range for coordinator-level positions and go up to the $60,000 or $70,000 range for supervisors and directors.

Management generally earns more than $100,000 per year. The highest paying positions are the city attorney at $174,000 and town manager at $198,000.

Andersen said the Town Council may discuss putting salaries online at a future study session.


Like this comment
Posted by Alamo Ron
a resident of Alamo
on Jul 25, 2008 at 8:08 am

Dear Danville,

I usually comment on things Alamo, but Mayor Andersen's comments are too compelling to ignore. With regard to the disclosure of Town staff salaries she said, "...making sure the information is available but at the same time not so widespread, all over."

She obviously believes the following:

1. A person can be a little bit pregnant.
2. The Internet does not exist.

It's refreshing to see such an antiquated belief system.

Alamo Ron

Like this comment
Posted by Bethany
a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2008 at 9:34 am

For Mayor Andersen and Diablo Vista region neighbors in Danville,

As municipal law counsel, I have represented various governments in the results of publication of employee salaries and benefits on the internet. The internet, which allows car thieves to openly sell auto parts on various lists and auction sites, is not a valid location for the sensitive nature of employee privacy.

Your consideration, Mayor Andersen, as fellow counsel, of the rights of your city employees to have protections of their financial information is not only commendable but, as you realize, in your responsibility and Town of Danville liability.

Diablo Vista regional counsel committee