Project: Reader Reaction
Curry County officials recently declined the Clovis News Journal’s request for employee salary information. County Attorney Steve Doerr said the records requested do not exist.
A recent Project: Reader Reaction question asked if the newspaper should sue the county to force release of the information. Some responses:
“I can’t understand why the county attorney has refused to release the list of salaries. Why the big secret? Who has what to hide? Are they making so much that they don’t need a raise or cost of living adjustment? I think the newpaper should press the issue.”
— Dan Toledo
“I believe that the salaries of all county and city employees are public records. The CNJ should sue to force the release of these documents. How will we ever know if their salaries and benefits are in line with other employers in this area? This information should help the county justify pay increases when the time comes.”
— John Frey
“I personally can’t see any good coming out of such a demand by the paper. A side problem is if the Clovis News Journal did access the salary records and did publish them, what sort of effect would such published knowledge have on the morale of county employees? I would say let it go.”
— Brent McBee
“If there is not a list of county employee salaries, how do they receive their pay? The payroll must be computerized. … Is this information so important that a lawsuit should be brought? To me, that seems like a waste of money. There must be a way to obtain this information without going through the hassle of a lawsuit.”
— Harry M. Richards
“It is my experience that public employee salaries, including that of the president, are public knowledge. The county attorney’s statement that no such list exists borders on the ludicrous. It would seem feasible to inquire about the matter with the New Mexico Attorney General’s office, and her response provided to Curry County.”
— Harold Burris
“One of the roles of the press is as watchdog for the people. The press is supposed to keep its eyes on government officials to make sure they are actually doing what we elect/pay them to do. This extends from school boards to presidents. That is one of the reasons our founders put the free-press line in the First Amendment. You should not have to sue to get this information.”
— Carol Singletary
“I thought any money collected by way of taxes, and the way it was spent, was open to public scrutiny. How else can we keep the people in charge accountable? And how can you have payroll records and not have a list readily available? However, I don’t think any list should be published with the employee names, only with the position and the salary it commands.”
— Kay Arvizu
“Isn’t the matter of county employee salaries a public record? It should be. And the list of salaries should be as simple as a few key strokes on a computer keyboard, and wait for a printer to print. Are not all these items paid for by taxpayers? Why shouldn’t we know? Is there something to hide?”
— Frank Dalton
“I do believe Curry County should have a list of employee salaries since they have to report their accounting records to the state and to the public anyway. However, it’s not at a level that the newspaper should sue the county for it.”
— Angus Lam
“Public employee records (including payroll) should be public record and open to review.”
— Bruce Ford
“As long as public servants reserve the right to ask the taxpayer for a raise, then the public has a right to know their salaries in order to make an informed decision as to whether more funding is merited. … I find it embarrassing that the county attorney (or city attorney) would make such an issue adversarial.
“If information is not forthcoming, then a lawsuit may be the only alternative. However, instead of litigation, we should simply ask the employees themselves; they may be willing to state how much they make, which would save a lot of headache and additional expense.”
— Raymond Atchley
“I believe all aspects of county government is public, including salaries. I would hope that anyone could request any data from our county manager and receive it. If the manager doesn’t have the detail requested, I believe it should be obtained and provided.
“Should the newspaper sue for the information. No. There are too many sue-happy people out there already. Settle it logically and on a professional level. If information will not be provided, then maybe the person or persons not providing public information should be replaced. Sometimes government officials forget that they are working for the public and are not running their own little kingdom.”
— Jim Sitterly
“It is absurd to think that our Curry County administrators believe that no list exists pertaining to employees’ salaries. If these documents are not available I would strongly support any action to force the release of (the) public information.
“The county employees are paid with tax dollars and as such that information should be available to every citizen, at any time. What are they trying to hide? New Mexico statute … provides for every person to have a right to inspect public records.”
— Chet Spear
“What is the purpose of (obtaining) the salary list? … Information for information’s sake is not necessarily important to have.”
— Jeff Greene
“Do you suppose the county attorney is hiding something? I thought about the idea of suing the county to get the list and I almost thought it would be a bad idea. But the more I think of it, the more I wonder why the list is such a secret. Maybe CNJ should sue to find out what is really going on.”
— Ardyth Elms
“Public payrolls are subject to public scrutiny in the U.S.A. No matter what people in Atlanta might think, New Mexico is still in the U.S.A., and government of the people is done by the people, and at the will of the people.
“Accountability is a major factor in obtaining good government — federal, state, and local. We should never tolerate any public official’s attempt to hide access to financial records of any sort, unless our security is at major risk by such access. I doubt that reviewing the payroll records for (Curry County) counts as a security risk.
“The CNJ shouldn’t have to ask twice. The Freedom of Information Act applies, and it should be invoked.”
— Carolyn Spence