Friday, December 16, 2011

The Publics Right-to-Know is not so Public After All

The Montana Policy Institute has made repeated requests over the last couple of years to the state Department of Administration to provide them with annual salaries and compensation information for all state government employees in Montana. Department director Janet Kelly has repeatedly made excuses and thrown up road-blocks to block public disclosure of this information. Kelly has given a host of excuses for not providing the citizens of Montana with what should be public information under our Freedom of information laws.

First she said there were privacy concerns. Then when that excuse failed to pass muster she went onto saying that the request would cost the department a burdensome amount of employee time and resources to comply with the information request and her department just plain didn’t have the budget to do it. Carl Graham, President of the Montana Policy Institute then said his group would pay for all costs of compiling the information. Once solutions to all of Kelly’s objections were made her next problem was that the multi-bazillion dollar computer system the state uses just couldn’t compile such reports. After months and months of excuses the Montana Policy Institute filed suit to compel the department to provide the requested information back in August of this year. Carl Graham had this to say in the Billings Gazette back when the suit was filed;
"We want to know what each state employee made, with bonus and OT (overtime) — the W-2 number," the institute's president, Carl Graham, said Thursday. "We started in 2010 and wanted the previous years. Now we want the most up-to-date numbers."
This week the Montana Watchdog reported that an attorney for the State of Montana told District Judge Dorothy McCarter that there are no statutes requiring the department to provide specific employee salary information. More evidence will be submitted to the judge in the next few weeks and McCarter is expected t render a decision in early 2012.

All this stonewalling makes me wonder what our state administration is trying to hide. Why shouldn’t the state taxpayers be allowed to know how much out state pays our public “servants”? I thought it was just a Havre thing but apparently expenditures involving our tax dollars are Top Secret throughout the entire state.

1 comment:

  1. I hope they pull this off and get them to disclose that information. I am betting they all make more than anyone where I work.