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Site Reveals Salaries of New York State Employees, Other State Financial Data

"The people's right to know the process of governmental decision-making and to review the documents and statistics leading to determinations is basic to our society."

Updated on Jan 15, 2013

Online disclosures of public-sector salaries have increased substantially in the last five years, and not all public employees are pleased. Government Technology articles like the one below -- published in 2008 -- covered posting of salaries for New York state and California state employees. Both sites have since expanded to include pensions, expenditures, payroll, contracts, university salaries and more.

A 2012 Governing review of state government websites found about half now maintain searchable compensation databases. Newspapers and other groups have also contributed, launching their own public employee pay websites, and about 57 percent of survey respondents reported their salary information was posted online, according to Governing. And while some public employees seem resigned to having salaries freely available to anyone, about a third object to such transparency as a privacy matter, and some cite increased complexities in what is revealed and what must be protected.

In a recent special report on security, Ilene Klein, chief information security officer of Phoenix, said that In between public and sensitive data, "you have information that is for internal use only, like employee data, some of that is public information.

“For example, my salary is public information. But public information is interspersed with confidential information," Klein continued. "My Social Security number is part of that employee record, but that’s confidential, so that field needs to be protected. If somebody requests my employee record, the public part can be released, but my Social Security number has to be redacted. And hopefully, my home address would be redacted as well."

End of update; original article follows

On Thursday the Empire Center for New York State Policy launched a Web site that reveals everything financial about New York State government including:

  • Complete list of state government employees, job titles and salaries.
  • Teachers' union and superintendent contracts for nearly every school district in New York State.
  • What the Empire Center terms the Legislature's "pork-barrel community projects" spending for 2008-09.
  • Internal operations expenditures by the state Assembly and Senate.
The site may soon add local government financial data as well.

The Empire Center is a project of the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, and the site is bound to be controversial as most public employees feel publishing their salaries by name is an invasion of privacy. However, the state's Freedom of Information Law states: "The people's right to know the process of governmental decision-making and to review the documents and statistics leading to determinations is basic to our society. Access to such information should not be thwarted by shrouding it with the cloak of secrecy or confidentiality. The Legislature therefore declares that government is the public's business and that the public, individually and collectively and represented by a free press, should have access to the records of government in accordance with the provisions of this article."

Wayne E. Hanson served as a writer and editor with e.Republic from 1989 to 2013, having worked for several business units including Government Technology magazine, the Center for Digital Government, Governing, and Digital Communities. Hanson was a juror from 1999 to 2004 with the Stockholm Challenge and Global Junior Challenge competitions in information technology and education.