We don’t do it just because we’re nosy, or because we can. We do it so taxpayers can compare public employees’ salaries, to improve government transparency and to empower residents when they speak with their elected leaders.
You’ve probably noticed our ongoing effort to publish salaries of employees at government bodies in the region. We, the taxpayers, are paying those salaries, and have a right to know about them.
Sadly, we still get pushback from some government officials and apparatchiks who think it’s none of our business.
Take, for instance, Chouteau Township Clerk Carole Meyer. We recently asked her for the names, positions and salaries of township employees. She gave us the titles and salaries, but not the names, saying that’s the long-standing township policy — and there’s no reason for us to have the names.
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Why would we want the names? Well, for one thing, it would catch our interest — and raise the eyebrows of township taxpayers — if all the employees happened to be named Meyer. They’re not, of course, but we’ve seen plenty of nepotism and cronyism in local government over the years, especially on the township level.
Meyer eventually turned over the names, after some dickering.
That shouldn’t be necessary. We’re trying to give taxpayers information they want and deserve. What do you suppose would happen if the payroll clerk at a business said the owner couldn’t have the names and salaries of the employees? We, the taxpayers and voters, essentially are the owners and CEOs of our government.
The irony is, many of our politicians run on platforms of promoting government transparency.
As a news organization, we serve the public by keeping an eye on government. To do that, we routinely ask the government for information, such as salaries and names of employees.
Often, we make those requests for information after receiving tips from sources and readers.
So, is there some information that you think we should seek from a public body? Is there a police report you think we should check? Is there a court file you think we should review? Is there an expense report we should request? Is there a questionable contract we should examine?
Send your tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s your information.