Prior to the Bell blow up, many cities sat tight on information about individual salaries, even for top managers, arguing that divulging hard numbers alongside names would embarrass hard-working employees and hurt morale, despite the fact that the law clearly states this is public information.
But the Bell stories convinced city attorneys to shift strategy out of fear they'd look like they were hiding fat bonuses or exorbitant pay. The city of Burbank, however, has decided to push back. Officials there have stalled a request from the Burbank Leader for salary information going back to 1999. Editor Dan Evans said the paper, which is owned by the LA Times, will sue:
...this action is illegal, and this paper will be enforcing its rights. First, though, a little background.
On Dec. 1, reporter Gretchen Meier sent a request to the city asking that it release information on who has received a bonus between 1999 and 2010, and how much each individual received. Prompting this request was a release of similar information by the city of Glendale, which posted the data on its website.
Instead of providing the name, title and amount of each public employee receiving payouts, Burbank officials instead decided to provide information only from the 2009-10 fiscal year, broken down solely by employee group. Even this limited data was fascinating: Employees received $1 million in completely discretionary pay that year, despite the fact that the city faced a multimillion-dollar budget gap.