Friday, June 1, 2007

Court leans toward open public pay records

Members of the state Supreme Court indicated during a hearing Wednesday that they are going to rule that local governments must make the names and salaries of their employees public, according to reports in the Mercury News and San Diego Union Tribune.

"I don't understand what is so personally intrusive about knowing what somebody on the public payroll is earning," Chief Justice Ronald George said to a lawyer for Oakland police officers opposing release of salary information. "Doesn't the public have a right to know?"

The court has 90 days to issue a ruling. The case began in 2003 when the Contra Costa Times asked the city of Oakland for the names and salaries of all city employees who make more than $100,000 a year. The city refused to release the data, citing a case in San Mateo County the year before where such information was sealed by a judge's order. Unions representing government employees sued the Coco Times and the newspaper won at trial and won on appeal. [See related item below.]

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