Public records open for all to see

Published 11:27 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Should the public have access to salary and pay information on government employees?

While most government employees would likely argue “no,” most everyone else would argue “yes.” And that’s because the public has a right to know how tax dollars are spent — government employees are paid with your tax dollars.

But there is understandably some pushback when it comes to salary information because it feels personal. “You wouldn’t want your salary made public, so why should government employees be different?” is the typical response the newspaper gets when we request to see these public records.

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But there is one big, obvious difference. Private sector employees aren’t paid using tax dollars.

This week is Sunshine Week, a national effort to promote transparency in government, and this newspaper requested salary information for Brookhaven, Lincoln County and Wesson government employees. Our goal was to see just how difficult it would be to obtain those records.

Thankfully, it wasn’t too difficult. We’ll publish a story about the process later this week.

But there was some concern about us publishing the salary information about each and every employee. And we understand that.

But that doesn’t mean the public doesn’t deserve to know how tax dollars are being spent, even down to the position-by-position pay detail. Does the street department pay its employees more or less than surrounding cities? Are male employees paid more than females? The only way to know is to request the information and see.

Our future stories using the pay data are intended only to shine a light on a part of government that is usually kept in the dark. Every action of government is your business and it’s your right to see the ins and outs of how your government works.