Madera resident uncovers city officials’ hefty pay raises

The ABC30 report, Madera resident claim city administrators gave themselves hefty pay raises, is a great example of how TransparentCalifornia.com is used by concerned citizens interesting in understanding how their tax dollars are being spent.

Click here to watch the TV segment.

As it turns out, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

The questions about Madera’s hefty pay raises led to a full-length response from the mayor in the Madera Tribune.

But that response only made matters worse, as we documented in our report Madera mayor misleads residents in attempt to hide unjustifiable, excessive pay raises.

 

 

Madera mayor misleads residents in attempt to hide unjustifiable, excessive pay raises

Summary: The City of Madera is facing significant financial problems, with a general fund deficit projected for each of the next five years, rising from $1.7 million in FY2018 to $3.9 million by FY2023. Over that same time period, the city’s estimated annual pension costs will rise from $5.1 million to $8.5 million.

As employee compensation — salaries plus benefits — accounts for approximately 66 percent of the general fund budget, it is unsurprising that area residents concerned about the city’s fiscal health have started looking there.

Last month, an area resident discovered the city’s employee compensation costs for top administration staff had increased significantly over the past few years.

After the resident’s findings were covered in an ABC30 report, the issue received widespread attention, culminating in a full-length commentary by Madera Mayor Andrew Medellin in the Madera Tribune.

The mayor wrote that, in FY2015, the city approved a pay increase after a city-commissioned study found that the average Madera job paid 4.4 percent less in total compensation than the “market median” of the 10 other city governments surveyed.

However, the mayor described this pay increase as one that merely increased Madera compensation levels to the market median level. This is false.

The city did not merely increase compensation to the market median. Rather the city provided a pay increase to the market median, plus an additional 5 percent across-the-board pay increase to all employees, followed by an additional 3 percent across-the-board raise to all employees in FY2016 and FY2017.

Thus, the city provided an additional, 11 percent across-the-board pay raise on top of the raise to the market median.

All of these raises were authorized and approved in the same action at the start of FY2015, so it is unclear as to why the Mayor provided residents with only partial information.

Consequently, this analysis merely intends to provide Madera residents with the complete and accurate information they are entitled to.

In FY2015, the city approved a series of pay raises that produced cumulative raises ranging between 11 – 44 percent, depending on job classification. The average job classification received a 20 percent salary raise.

In aggregate, we estimate these raises will result in an additional $1.835 million in annual compensation costs.

We also note that the justification for these raises appears to be weak. There were no signs of staffing shortfalls or difficulty with regards to hiring and retaining employees. In fact, the mayor reported that the average management employee had been with the city for 14 years, a strong indication that the city does not have a retention problem.

Moreover, Madera, when measured on a variety of metrics, was the poorest of all the cities included in the survey. Thus, it is not terribly surprising that their compensation levels were 4 percent below the median. While a desire to increase to the median is not terribly surprising, why the council approved an additional 11 percent raise on top of that increase appears particularly hard to justify.

Background

Last month, a Madera city resident found that city administrators received a significant increase in their total compensation — pay plus benefits — over the past 5 years, despite the city’s growing financial concerns.

The resident’s findings sparked an ABC30 report, which generated significant attention and prompted a response from Madera Mayor Andrew Medellin in the Madera Tribune.

In his response, Medellin attempts to discredit the resident’s analysis by falsely claiming that the source of his data — TransparentCalifornia.com — was unreliable.

In fact, Transparent California’s data comes directly from the city in response to a request for employee compensation data under the same formatting and reporting guidelines used by the California State Controller’s Office.

So it was surprising to see the mayor allege that the information on our site “has no guidelines or procedures for reporting,” in addition to claiming that the cost of benefits is mistakenly reported as base pay — a demonstrably false claim that can be dispelled in the 5 seconds it takes to visit the website.

More troubling than the mayor’s poorly executed “smear the messenger” campaign, however, were his comments regarding the pay raises provided to city staff. In 2014, the city commissioned a study to compare the compensation it offered for various positions to the levels found at 10 neighboring city governments.

The study found that the average Madera job classification paid 4 percent less in total compensation than the middle-point (median) of the cities surveyed.

The mayor described the city’s response to this study as follows:

We agreed to meet the market median or in the middle of the comparison (median) when looking at the combined value of pay and benefits.

Some positions received a small increase while others were given a greater increase to meet the market median. Some didn’t receive a market adjustment at all.

As will be discussed later, the study was fundamentally biased in favor of higher pay and, even ignoring that, failed to justify the pay raises provided.

But in a commentary ostensibly designed to set the record straight about pay increases at Madera, the mayor badly misleads residents by omitting a key fact: the city didn’t merely increase salaries to meet the market median, they also provided an additional 11 percent pay raise in addition to and on top of that!

The Mayor’s omission of this point is particularly glaring given this additional raise occurred at the exact same time as the increase to the market median, as shown below:

unionmm

This cumulative 11 percent raise on top of the increase to the market median can be found in every union contract that the mayor and the rest of city council approved, as well as in the most recent budget. In fact, other than the mayor’s commentary from last week, there does not appear to be any reference to the market median increase that does not also immediately, and in literally the very next sentence, reference the additional raises provided.

As will be shown below, there is little compelling evidence to justify the pay increase to the market median on its own. But the 11 percent raise on top of that is particularly indefensible, something the mayor appears to recognize by his conspicuous omission of that fact.

Methodologically flawed study

There is no economically valid justification for conducting a salary comparison that is restricted to only other governments. While this is appropriate for the few government-specific jobs like police and fire employees, there is no legitimate basis for comparing the pay for common jobs like an administrative assistant, accountant, engineer, human resources staff, payroll specialists, secretaries, etc. exclusively to other governments. And precisely because California government workers already, on average, earn up to 30% more than their equally-skilled counterparts in the private-sector, such an analysis is guaranteed to only further that disparity.

Determining whether compensation is at an appropriate level should be informed by whether an agency is able to adequately attract and retain staff. As the mayor points out, the city has had no problem retaining employees, with the average management employee having been with the city for 14 years — hardly a sign of constant turnover and an inability to fill positions at the previous salary level.

And while it may sound reasonable to increase pay to the middle of the (poorly defined) market, it is worth emphasizing the obvious mathematical necessity that not everyone can be at the middle, and that half of all agencies surveyed must be below the middle.

It is precisely because of government agencies’ misguided desire to be at the middle of an arbitrary and misleading salary survey, along with the absence of the cost restraints found in the private sector, that public pay continues to rise.

For example, Madera’s recent pay increase now moves the median benchmark that much higher. As the now comparatively lower ranked agencies seek to match the recently-increased median, their efforts will also boost the median higher, thus perpetuating an ever-increasing race to the top, with only the degree to which taxpayers can bear this burden serving as the ultimate backstop.

Madera poorest of all cities surveyed

Even setting aside the issues raised above, the prudent response to the city-commissioned study, particularly in light of the city’s financial woes, was to simply do nothing.

As shown below, Madera, when measured on a variety of metrics, is the poorest of all the cities surveyed in the study.

City Average household income City Median workers’ earnings City Per capita income
Clovis $85,195 Clovis $34,552 Clovis $29,876
Manteca $75,246 Manteca $31,610 Turlock $24,582
Turlock $69,487 Hanford $31,508 Manteca $24,532
Hanford $68,098 Turlock $29,455 Lodi $24,267
Lodi $67,605 Tulare $27,202 Hanford $23,300
Ceres $64,587 Lodi $27,159 Fresno $20,141
Tulare $60,301 Ceres $24,264 Ceres $18,715
Fresno $60,242 Fresno $23,899 Tulare $18,707
Merced $55,940 Merced $23,207 Merced $18,415
Porterville $54,148 Porterville $21,439 Porterville $16,319
Madera $51,893 Madera $20,749 Madera $15,131
Average $66,085 Average $27,430 Average $21,885
Madera vs Avg -21% Madera vs Avg -24% Madera vs Avg -31%
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Selected Economic Characteristics

Thus, a finding that Madera’s average job pays 4 percent less in total compensation than its much richer neighbors is hardly a compelling reason for an across-the-board pay increase, and the corresponding burden such an increase imposes on area residents.

Given Madera has forecasted a multi-million dollar general fund shortfall that gets larger in each of the next 5 years, alongside a nearly 70 percent increase in pension costs, the city’s recklessness couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Yes, several Madera jobs paid less than what their neighboring, richer governments paid. The fact that Madera had no trouble filling these jobs makes clear that their previous compensation levels were more than adequate. Nonetheless, if even the very poorest city surveyed is unwilling to be one of those who must be in the bottom half of a salary survey, who will?

True size of the FY2015 pay raise

By comparing the just-released FY2017 salary schedule against the FY2014 salaries in place at the time of the study, we can measure the total impact of the pay raises approved at the start of FY2015 — which include the immediate increase to the market median plus an immediate 5 percent increase on top of that, plus an additional 3 percent increase in both FY2016 and FY2017.

In the summer of 2015, after learning that the average Madera city job paid 4 percent less in total compensation than the market median, the Madera City Council approved a series of pay raises that would provide an average 20 percent increase in base salary over the next three years. A complete table showing the cumulative pay raise for each classification can be found in Appendix I.

In aggregate, we estimate that this cumulative 20 percent pay raise will result in $1.372 million in additional annual salary costs, which totals $1.835 million when including the corresponding increase in retirement costs that accompany any salary increase.

How does Madera compensation compare now?              

As a result of these newly-increased salaries, total compensation for Madera jobs range from 2 percent above the market median to as much as 28 percent above for the city administrator. The average job went from being 4 percent below the market median to more than 8 percent above it. See Appendix II for the complete table.

There are two caveats to this finding. First, it does not factor in any increases that might have occurred at the comparator cities. Thus, it is likely that this would reduce the compensation premium reported if the assumedly higher 2017 salaries of the comparator cities were used.

Second, when calculating the value of benefits, we simply adopted the static dollar values used in the original study. But because higher salaries translate to higher retirement benefits, the value of benefits will increase correspondingly. Properly accounting for this would increase the compensation premium received for Madera employees.

We have not corrected for these two, slightly off-setting variables, as the purpose of Appendix II is to merely get a sense of the size of the cumulative, one-time increase approved in 2015, rather than providing a perfectly up to date comparison.

Conclusion

Madera’s general fund is expected to be in the red for each of the next 5 years, with a forecasted annual deficit that rises from $1.7 million in FY2018 to $3.9 million by FY2023. Over that same time period, the city’s estimated annual pension costs will rise from $5.1 million to $8.5 million.

The effects of the cumulative average 20 percent salary increase approved in FY2015 will be felt twice, with the higher salaries generating a corresponding increase in pension costs. In total, we estimate the FY2015 raise will cost the city an additional $1.835 million annually.

While it is fairly common for governments to provide pay raises by employing the seemingly reasonable, albeit profoundly flawed, approach of paying the “market median,” Madera went beyond that by granting all employees an additional 11 percent pay increase above and beyond the increase to the market median.

Madera residents deserve elected officials who are both responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars and transparent with their constituents. By voting for such an excessive and unwarranted pay raise, and then providing the public with misleading and incomplete information, the mayor, in this instance at least, appears to have failed on both accounts.

 


Appendix I

Cumulative salary increases for Madera job classifications from FY15-17

Job Title % increase (FY15-17)
Fleet Operations Manager 44%
Electrician III 44%
Director of Community Development 43%
City Clerk 39%
Deputy City Clerk 36%
City Attorney 34%
Director of Human Resources 33%
Public Works Maintenance Worker II 31%
Director of Parks & Community Services 31%
Water System Technician 30%
Waste Water Treatment Plant Manager 29%
City Administrator 27%
Parks Worker II 27%
Plans Examiner 26%
Administrative Analyst 26%
Public Works Operations Director 24%
Network Administrator 23%
Combination Building Inspector 22%
Financial Services Manager 22%
Information Services Manager 22%
Animal Control Officer 22%
Chief Building Official 21%
Accountant II 21%
Facilities Maintenance Technician 20%
Water System Supervisor 20%
Associate Planner 19%
Wastewater Collection System Supervisor 18%
Construction Inspector II 17%
Accounting Technician II 17%
Payroll Specialist 17%
Mechanic II 16%
Assistant Engineer 15%
Director of Financial Services 15%
Recreation/Community Programs Coordinator 15%
Park Planning Manager 15%
Engineering Technician II 14%
Police Sergeant 14%
Administrative Assistant 14%
Office Assistant II 14%
Computer Technician 14%
Police Chief 14%
Public Safety Dispatcher 14%
Program Manager-Grants 13%
Planning Manager 13%
City Engineer 12%
Records Clerk 11%
Assistant Planner 11%
Police Officer II 11%
Recreation/Community Programs Manager 11%
Deputy City Engineer 11%
Water System Worker II 11%
Human Resources Technician II 11%
Engineering Project Manager 11%
Neighborhood Preservation Specialist II 11%
Police Office Supervisor 11%
Building Permit Technician 11%
Police Commander 11%
Utility Billing Supervisor 11%
Water Quality Specialist II 11%
Parks Supervisor 11%
Senior Planner 11%
Public Works Maintenance Worker IV 11%
Average 20%

 

Appendix II

Total FY2017 compensation for Madera job classifications as a percentage of FY2015 Market Median

Job Title Madera compensation as % of median after FY15 raise
City Administrator 128%
Engineering Project Manager 124%
Senior Planner 117%
Recreation/Community Programs Manager 117%
Water Quality Specialist II 117%
Assistant Planner 116%
Water System Worker II 116%
Police Commander 116%
Neighborhood Preservation Specialist II 115%
Records Clerk 114%
Utility Billing Supervisor 113%
Deputy City Engineer 113%
Public Works Maintenance Worker IV 112%
Building Permit Technician 110%
Director of Parks & Community Services 110%
Police Office Supervisor 109%
City Engineer 109%
Planning Manager 108%
Director of Financial Services 108%
Human Resources Technician II 108%
Parks Supervisor 108%
Police Officer II 108%
Chief Building Official 108%
Information Services Manager 107%
Public Works Operations Director 107%
Park Planning Manager 107%
Program Manager-Grants 107%
City Attorney 107%
Computer Technician 107%
Assistant Engineer 106%
Engineering Technician II 106%
Police Sergeant 106%
Director of Human Resources 106%
Administrative Assistant 106%
Public Safety Dispatcher 106%
Construction Inspector II 106%
Associate Planner 106%
Wastewater Collection System Supervisor 106%
Mechanic II 106%
Recreation/Community Programs Coordinator 106%
Financial Services Manager 106%
Animal Control Officer 106%
Office Assistant II 106%
Director of Community Development 106%
Water System Supervisor 105%
City Clerk 105%
Accountant II 105%
Payroll Specialist 105%
Network Administrator 105%
Accounting Technician II 105%
Combination Building Inspector 105%
Facilities Maintenance Technician 105%
Plans Examiner 105%
Administrative Analyst 105%
Waste Water Treatment Plant Manager 104%
Water System Technician 104%
Parks Worker II 103%
Public Works Maintenance Worker II 103%
Deputy City Clerk 103%
Fleet Operations Manager 102%
Police Chief 102%
Electrician III 102%
Average 108%

Lack of penalties allows San Diego Unified to disregard state’s public records law

As long as government employees are free to violate the state’s public records law with impunity, Californians will continue to be denied the fully transparent government promised to them under state law.

While California’s Public Records Act declares that governmental transparency is a “fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state,” the realization of this promise is severely undercut by the lack of any penalty for government officials who blatantly violate the law.

As a result, some agencies are comfortable ignoring the law entirely, adopting what can only be described as a “well, sue us” mentality.

This was the tactic employed by the Los Angeles County West Vector Control District — a local government funded through a supplemental fee included on residents’ property tax bill.

Beginning in 2014, TransparentCalifornia.com requested the district’s pay data as part of its effort to populate the site with the salaries of every government employee in the state.

Despite state law mandating a response within 10 days of its receipt, the district ignored the request and numerous follow-ups for years. Remarkably, even a certified mail letter warning of imminent legal action failed to elicit a response from the district.

It was only after a lawsuit was filed did the district finally acknowledge the request — at which point they provided all of the requested data just a few days after the suit was filed.

But shouldn’t the right to a transparent government apply to all Californians, and not just those with the time and resources to pursue costly litigation?

And it’s not just the smaller agencies who behave this way, even the massive San Diego Unified School District routinely flouts the provision of the law that requires “prompt” disclosure of public records.

Take Transparent California’s most recent request for salary data from the district as an example.

On June 12, the District replied and asserted that they would need approximately three months’ time in order to provide the requested information.

Yet the file that was ultimately provided was marked as being created and last modified on June 6 — indicating it had been in the school’s possession the entire time! An inquiry asking if it was normal policy for the school to delay production of readily available, existing records for nearly three months went unanswered.

In addition to violating the law, such unjustified delays are particularly troubling given the District’s recent adoption of a policy whereby it deletes all emails after only a year — creating a scenario where potentially responsive records could be deleted and withheld from a requester, purely as a result of the school’s habitually delayed response time.

Sadly, examples of governments flouting the mandates of California’s Public Records Act are much greater than the few mentioned here, which is why Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, sponsored AB1479 last session.

The bill would have allowed a court to impose a penalty of between $1,000 and $5,000 — paid directly to the requester — when a government unlawfully denied access to public records. While the fees were far too small to be a truly effective deterrent, it was still a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, despite having passed the Assembly by a 71-1 landslide, lobbying by government unions led to the bill’s functional demise in the Senate, where every word of the penalty provision was erased.

If the promise of a truly transparent government is ever to be realized, the Legislature has only one path forward: adopt the same approach for how private citizens are treated and impose penalties on those who violate the law.

In North Carolina, government employees who knowingly violate the state’s public records law can be held personally liable for the requester’s legal fees — a mechanism which ensures that all residents receive the fully transparent and accountable government they are entitled to.

The California Legislature should adopt a similar provision here.

There’s always been something unsettling about granting public officials immunity from crimes and other wrongdoing — but the case for immunity is particularly weak when it comes to those who intentionally deny Californians their “fundamental and necessary right” of a transparent government.

Indeed, much of the justification for granting government the power of taxation is the notion that those funds are used to serve the public in both a transparent and accountable fashion. Allowing government employees to freely ignore their obligations in this regard threatens to undermine that entire edifice.

The California Legislature put together a nearly perfect public records law. Now it just needs to make sure it’s actually followed.

Robert Fellner is research director at TransparentCalifornia.com — the state’s largest public pay and pension database — where he has made or overseen more than 10,000 public records requests to over 2,500 unique California governments. A condensed version of this commentary was first published in the OC Register.

Help keep government transparent!

This year Transparent California surpassed the 100 million mark for lifetime page views — and that wasn’t even close to being our biggest success.

But in order to continue the work that has produced the results described below, we are asking that those who value our work please consider making a tax-deductible donation today!

Our most widely read report was on a BART janitor who quadrupled his $57,000 salary to over $270,000 with overtime pay and benefits — which ultimately received international coverage. Shockingly, such large payouts for BART janitors had been occurring for years, but were largely unreported until Transparent California thrust the issue into the national spotlight.

In response, BART announced they had instituted a freeze on overtime pay for janitors earlier this year.  But that’s not all. State Senator Steve Glazer authored a bill to create a BART Inspector General, which he said was necessary because of issues like the high overtime pay uncovered by Transparent California, according to a local FOX news report.

Last month, the Governor signed Glazer’s bill into law, which will now give voters the chance to create an independent inspector general for BART!

That is the power of transparency — and the kind of impact you can expect from your tax-deductible donation to support our work.

But the tangible policy changes from our work aren’t limited to just BART.

In May 2017 we reported that a Riverside utilities dispatcher tripled his salary to nearly $400,000 with state’s 10th largest overtime payout.

The following month, after covering our initial release, the Press-Enterprise announced that Riverside changed their policy after utility’s $257,719 overtime revelation!

Of course, we can’t take all the credit for that. The City of Riverside deserves praise for their willingness to enact policy solutions and address the issue, rather than reflexively  defend the status quo as most governments do when examples of waste are brought to light.

Finally, California’s Public Records Act — the state law mandating transparency from all governments — is rendered meaningless if governments are free to defy it with impunity. Which is why, in early 2017, we expanded our operations to include enforcing California’s Public Records Act via legal action, when necessary.

There is no question that litigation can be costly, but the harm from allowing governments to hide its affairs in secrecy is just too great. It is a near certainty that if a government is refusing to comply with our basic request that they are also stonewalling area residents’ requests as well. Indeed, we’ve received dozens of emails which attest to just that.

Of course, all of this is only possible because of the generous donations by those who support our mission of a more transparent and accountable government. If you value our work and would like to see more examples of positive reforms like the ones outlined above, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today!

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As always, thank you for supporting our mission of a more transparent and accountable government. And if you ever have any questions, ideas for how we can improve the site or would like to chat about anything else, please feel free to email me at Robert@TransparentCalifornia.com.

 

Public records lawsuit filed against Los Angeles government

Today, the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the Los Angeles County West Vector Control District for refusing to comply with the California Public Records Act (CPRA).

The lawsuit stems from NPRI’s work on its TransparentCalifornia.com website — which publishes pay data for approximately 2.5 million California public employees from nearly 2,500 unique government agencies.

The District describes itself as “the second largest vector control district in the state of California by population served.” Vector control districts are also known as mosquito abatement districts which, as their name implies, are focused on preventing and controlling the spread of mosquitos and the diseases they carry. Residents fund these public agencies through an annual fee included on their property tax bill.

The District is one of 45 mosquito abatement districts statewide, according to data provided to Transparent California by the California State Controller’s Office.

Of the 15 mosquito abatement districts with the largest payroll statewide, the Los Angeles County West Vector Control District is the only one that has refused to comply with Transparent California’s request for basic salary data:

Transparent California first submitted a request for District employee names and wages in June 2014. After the District ignored the initial request — and every subsequent request — Transparent California submitted a renewed request via fax, e-mail and certified mail to the District on September 19, 2017.  The request explicitly stated that Transparent California would be forced to resort to legal action if the District did not respond within ten days, as required by state law.

Despite returning the certified mail receipt indicating the request was successfully received on September 21, 2017, the District has so far failed to provide a response of any kind.

Transparent California research director Robert Fellner issued the following statement:

“The California Public Records Act requires that public records be disclosed in a prompt fashion, but this mandate is useless if governments can choose to ignore it with impunity. As a public agency funded by tax dollars, the Los Angeles County West Vector Control District has an obligation to be transparent and accountable to the public it was created to serve.”

The District’s willingness to so blatantly violate state law is an example of why the CPRA needs harsher penalties, Fellner added.

“In order for the governmental transparency promised to Californians to be fully realized, the Legislature must add real penalties for government actors who knowingly and willfully violate the state’s public records law.”

The lawsuit asks the court to compel the Los Angeles County West Vector Control District to comply with the CPRA and provide a copy of records documenting district employees’ name and salary information so that it may be published online at TransparentCalifornia.com.

TransparentCalifornia.com is used by millions of Californians each year and has received praise from elected officials, government employees, the media and concerned citizens alike for its ability to successfully improve transparency in government.

For more information, please contact Robert Fellner at 559-462-0122 or Robert@TransparentCalifornia.com.

Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

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Fresno Council of Governments sued for violating state’s public records law

Update: On September 29, 2017 the Fresno Council of Governments complied with our request and agreed to pay our attorney’s fees. Their data can be found here.


Today, the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) filed a lawsuit in Fresno County Superior Court against the Fresno Council of Governments for refusing to comply with the California Public Records Act (CPRA).

The lawsuit stems from NPRI’s work on its TransparentCalifornia.com website — which publishes the pay and pension data of nearly 2.5 million California public employees from over 2,000 unique government agencies.

The Council denied Transparent California’s request for records documenting the names and wages of its employees on the grounds that such information is confidential.

The Council’s rationale for withholding the requested public records contradicts longstanding California law, dating back to a 1955 official Attorney General Opinion that held that “the name of every public officer and employee, as well as the amount of his salary, is a matter of public record,” and a 2007 state Supreme Court case which codified that same finding.

Thus, the Council has unlawfully denied a request to access public records, according to Transparent California research director Robert Fellner.

“The California Public Records Act is emphatic in its purpose to make public all records concerning governmental affairs. The Fresno Council of Governments’ refusal to provide an accounting of their employees’ names and taxpayer-funded salaries is a clear violation of the law.”

The Council is designated by the state as a transportation planning agency and is comprised of 15 Fresno-area cities and the County of Fresno. The California State Controller’s Office reports that there are 11 “Council of Governments” agencies statewide. Transparent California has received the requested information from every one but Fresno:

Transparent California’s repeated attempts to inform the Council of their obligations under the law and elicit a lawful response went unheeded, leaving litigation as the only avenue available to access the public information sought.

The lawsuit asks the Court to compel the Fresno Council of Governments to comply with the CPRA and provide a copy of records documenting their employees’ name and salary information so that it may be published online at TransparentCalifornia.com.

TransparentCalifornia.com is used by millions of Californians each year and has received praise for its ability to successfully improve transparency in government by elected officials, government employees, the media, and concerned citizens alike.

For more information, please contact Robert Fellner at 559-462-0122 or Robert@TransparentCalifornia.com.

Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.

 

California labor union influence kills public records bill

Well, my earlier op-ed arguing that California needs to put some heat in its sunshine law went spectacularly unheeded, with the bill being gutted entirely last week!

In an exclusive op-ed for the San Diego Union-Tribune, I explore how this modest bill designed to improve governmental transparency was killed:

Sadly, this is how the California Legislature works these days. Neither the overwhelming public support for governmental transparency nor the fact that 99 percent of Assembly members voted to make AB1479 law was enough to overcome the union veto.

Be sure to read the full piece by visiting the San Diego Union-Tribune website or picking up a copy of tomorrow’s paper!