Salaries for Classified NM State Employees Again Available On Line; Gov Martinez Reveals Own Plans
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New Mexico Watchdog has succeeded in posting on line, in a searchable format, the salary information for classified employees a district court judge ordered Governor Susana Martinez to remove from the state’s Sunshine Portal. Information on all New Mexico state employees may now be found at nmtransparency.org. A permanent link to that site has been added to the blogroll on the right-hand side of our home page.
A previous effort to reestablish the Sunshine Portal’s capability to search classified employee salary data by name failed. Our efforts over the past several weeks to recreate the full benefits of the Sunshine Portal have now borne fruit.
Union Succeeds In Scrubbing Public Info from Internet
We have recreated the Sunshine Portal in response to a lawsuit by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District 18 union to eliminate the names of classified workers from the Internet portal established to give taxpayers access to information on the state’s finances. Classified employees work under the state’s civil service guidelines. Numbering 26,149 employees, they comprise the overwhelming bulk of New Mexico’s state payroll. Only 1,005 of the state’s workforce is not considered classified. The names of those latter individuals were never in contention as the Sunshine Portal act explicitly directed that they be published.
As reported in an earlier story, in June a District Court judge in Albuquerque ordered Governor Susana Martinez to remove the names of classified employees from the Sunshine Portal. The union argued that the Sunshine Portal law prohibited publication on that website of the names of classified employees. The court did not accept the Governor’s argument that, since the information was public anyway, it did not matter whether it was published on the Sunshine Portal or somewhere else.
The Governor has complied with the court’s order. Currently, only job titles and salary amounts are available on the Sunshine Portal for classified employees. None of their individual names appear, making it extremely difficult for taxpayers to find out how much state workers are being paid.
Making access to public information more difficult was the motivation for the union’s lawsuit, says State Senator Sander Rue, co-author of the law that created the Sunshine Portal. “It is not as though the Sunshine Portal discloses information that was otherwise not public,” he told us. “The portal simply provides a place where, in a user friendly format, citizens can have access to public information.” Opponents of identifying classified employees by name “are out to make it really difficult to get to public information.”
Keeping the Sun Shining on State Financial Information
Governor Susana Martinez has suggested she may publish the classified employee information somewhere else on the Internet. The court order only prohibits her from publishing the information on the Sunshine Portal. An e-mail to her spokesman Scott Darnell seeking an update on those plans did not receive a response in time for publication of this story. [UPDATE] We have since heard from Mr. Darnell. He tells us: “We’re still planning to display the job title and salary information for all state employees on another public website; we anticipate being able to do so within the next one to two weeks.”
Senator Rue says he will reintroduce legislation to include the names of classified employees on the Sunshine Portal. A similar effort in the last legislative session failed. Public sector unions tied up Rue’s proposal by demanding that the names and salaries of all persons working under private contracts with the state also be published on the Sunshine Portal. Rue says there may be some merit to that idea, particularly where the contractor acts as a quasi-governmental body with employees working full-time on the state’s behalf. But the concept can also sweep so broadly it becomes absurd and impractical, as, for instance, by requiring the state to gather the names and compensation for all persons who helped prepare food sold to the state or who delivered furniture purchased from a private contractor. Rue says he hopes to work with union representatives to achieve a legislative fix that will allow the names of classified employees to be matched with their salaries and job titles on the Sunshine Portal.
In the meantime, New Mexico Watchdog and our sponsor the Rio Grande Foundation will continue to provide the full, searchable database for ALL state employees. The court’s order does not apply to us, and we are publishing only information that is publicly available, but doing so in a format that is user friendly. While we cannot automatically update the information as easily as the state, we will periodically add the latest employee information into the database.
Our intern, Marcos Portillo, a former staff sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army and currently an economics student at the University of New Mexico, deserves all the credit for establishing this alternative to the state’s crippled Sunshine Portal. Since our initial effort fell short, he has worked diligently to recreate an able-bodied clone of the Sunshine Portal that provides the same ease of use and full range of information as the original. His success has earned our profound appreciation.
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NM: Watchdog rebuffs union with posting of state salaries « Watchdog News
[...] the public's access to the state’s payroll, which is available at nmtransparency.org. Read the complete story at New Mexico Watchdog. [...]