This past spring I asked various municipalities to provide emailed lists of their employees who made over $75,000 in salary and fringe benefits.
Many complied with the names and compensation information.
The City of Crystal Lake sent the information, but only by job title and for that information I was referred to the City web site.
I appealed to the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Division on two grounds:
- the response was not by email
- the response did not include employee names
November 15th Assistant Attorney General Steve Silverman sent a four-page letter affirming the appeal.
To my request for an email response, the Public Counselor’s Office ruled that referring me to the City web site, “does not satisfy the requirement that a public body furnish a requested with a copy of the record in electronic format.”
While I contended that the information had to be posted by name, the City contended, “[n]other in Section 7.3 or anywhere else in the O[pen] M[eetings] A[ct] requires public bodies to list the names of employees.”
The Assistant Attorney General agreed that “Section 7.3(a) is ambiguous to the extent that its language is silent as to whether employees may be identified by name or by title.”
But, puts out that in legislative debate on the law, which was part of reforms intended to prevent ‘pension abuses’ such as ‘spiking,” Rep. Karen May made reference to both terms. “Pension spiking” refers to giving an employee a large raise right before retirement, the letter notes.
“To detect pension abuses such as spiking, it is necessary to be able to compare the compensation and benefits of individually identifiable employees to their previous levels of compensation,” the letter continues.
“…To interpret Section 7.3(a) of OMA to permit public bodies to ‘identify’ individuals by job title rather than by name would impede the public’s access to information needed to detect pension and compensation abuses…Thus, the public is entitled to information regarding the compensation and perquisites of individual public employees.’
“We conclude that the City violate Section 7.3(a) of the O[pen] M[eetings] A[ct] by failing to post the names of employees whose total compensation packages exceed $75,000 per year. Accordingly, we request that the City immediately revise the information posted on its website to include the names of those employees, and also provide Mr. Skinner with an electronic copy of the salary compensation for those employees.”
The City has complied with the Public Access Divisions’ request.