Tidings Got It Right – Editorial Comment on Ashland’s Budget Process

Our View: Public means public

Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Posted at 12:01 AM

Ashland city officials seem to be confused about whether Oregon public records law applies to city employees’ salaries. Allow us to clarify.

The salaries of public employees are public record, and subject to disclosure to any member of the public, not just city Budget Committee members.

Two public members of the Ashland Budget Committee had asked to see city employee salary information, including overtime pay, as part of their duties in helping to compile the city budget. Acting Finance Director Bev Adams said she thought it was “highly inappropriate” for Budget Commitee members to see the information.

The Attorney General’s Public Records and Meetings Manual — the bible in these matters — recounts a case from 1992 when the attorney general ruled that public employee salary information is public record, because the public has an interest in knowing how much public employees are being paid.

It’s certainly legitimate for the city’s Budget Committee to see salary information — including overtime pay — before voting to approve a new city budget.

Personal information — telephone numbers, addresses and birth dates — are exempt from disclosure.

In last Thurday’s meeting, City Councilor Dennis Slattery spoke in favor of transparency, but Councilor Mike Morris said, “we don’t need to know what salaries are.”

How is the public supposed to evaluate the management of public money without knowing how it is spent?

The Budget Committee will consider this question again Thursday, May 18 at 6:00pm.