Controller mandates public salary release

In the wake of the Bell salary scandal, California Controller John Chiang ordered cities and counties to open their books and report salaries paid to their employees and elected officials. His office will post the results online starting in November.

Gee, if we had only known it was so easy.

Our news organization had to fight public agencies in court — and won — to obtain the release of this data. No need to wait for November, though. View the results for yourself at http://www.contracostatimes.com/public-employee-salaries.

Click here to read the Los Angeles Times’ pieces on Bell.

Click here to read PublicCEO Web site’s interviews with the League of Cities and California Association of Counties on the subject.

Read on for Chiang’s news release.

SACRAMENTO – State Controller John Chiang today announced new reporting requirements for all California cities and counties, directing them to clearly identify elected officials and public employees’ compensation. The information will be posted on the Controller’s website, starting in November.

“The absence of transparency is a breeding ground for waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars,” said Chiang. “A single website with accessible information will make sure that excessive pay is no longer able to escape public scrutiny and accountability.”

The new reporting requirements come after the City of Bell reportedly spent $1.6 million annually on just three city employees, and nearly $100,000 for each part-time City Councilmember. At the request of the City of Bell’s Interim City Administrative Officer, the Controller ordered an audit of Bell’s finances last week.

Under current law, local governments are required to transmit summary information about their revenues and expenditures to the State Controller’s office. Payroll information is included in the total amount listed for each category of program, such as public protection, health and welfare, and governing body. The data is compiled and used to produce annual reports for the Legislature. The Controller’s new rules require cities and counties to provide the salaries for each classification of elected official, such as mayor and supervisor, and public employee, such as city manager and county administrator.

City and counties generally are required to provide the information to the Controller by mid-October of each year. The Controller’s website will be updated annually to reflect the most recent data received. Local governments who fail to report timely could face a penalty of up to $5,000.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen

  • suzanne

    I want all executives, ceo’s etc who received tax payers monies;bailout monies etc salaries to be published especially benefits as well as BayAreaNewsMedia employees and Executives. They say whats good for one is good for all. Remember eventually tax payers pay for everything everywhere. Isn’t that why we have so many bond assessments, UUT, etc.

  • Common Tater

    This proves that Lisa V. and Dan B. were several years ahead of the curve. Big thanks to both of you.

  • Arne Simonsen

    And now the salary for San Ramon’s City manager is being called into question.
    We can all thank Lisa, Dan and the Bay Area News Group for being the pitbulls on this one!

  • Wendy Lack

    Yes, the CCT was ahead of its time. ‘Bout time that ready access to public employee salary info becomes the norm.

    Now if only benefits cost information — i.e., total compensation, including the full cost of benefits — were also required for release? Public employee benefits are no longer “fringe” — it’s where the REAL money is.

    But at least this is a start.

  • John W

    Ditto to 2, 3 and 4 above.

  • Sara and Meg WHO ??!!

    Amen to the open discussion of “total compensation” – salary is J U S T the start.

    WHoever said that all salary / income information should be made public was mistaken – – the taxpayers most certainly do NOT pay for “..everything..everywhere..” – – but, if it would make you feel any better, you can find the annual salaries and descriptions of the highest-paid executives in most any public company in the various filings required by the SEC – – – all of which can be accessed pretty easilly. . . . and publically traded companies have been required to do so since – – well, for a LOOOONG time.

    Thanks do Dan B. for doing the job that every professional reporter SHOULD be doing – – but, sadly, so few ARE doing.

    P.S. – there ARE a couple of groups that are under-paid in the public sector. Those who staff our classrooms are at the top of my list (which does NOT include admin and management BTW).

  • Common Tater

    Excellent point made by 8:21 pm. Where is the list of teachers and administrators salaries in the SRVUSD?

    There are several school districts in the data base, but SRV is absent.

  • John W

    Next, we can publish a data base of who is paying what in property taxes under the generational discrimination of Prop. 13. Actually, there appears to be a new website that does this: blockshopper.com. So far, however, the tax column has not been populated with data.

  • Common Tater

    You can look up the property tax paid on any specific parcel on the county website. It’s a bit intricate and non-intuitive but start at


    Enter either the parcel number or the street address. On the next screen, click on one of the “Secured” links under the “Bill Type” column. This will bring up that parcel’s property tax bill.

    While you’re at it, take note of what the Tax Rate Area (TRA) is for that parcel. It’s on the tax bill and a little hard to find. Note the TRA and then go to


    This is the “Where Your Property Tax Dollars Go” page. Type your TRA in at the bottom and you’ll a listing of the specific allocations for that TRA of the basic 1 percent property tax. Cool, huh?

  • Livestrong

    WHuuuu the . . . . .. ?

    generational discrmination of Prop 13

    how strange is this idea ?

    You buy a house or I buy the same house.
    You are 80 and I’m 28.
    where is the “generational discrimination” – ??????

    I suppose .19 cent a gallon gas was “generational discrimination” – – or the AT&T stock my grandaddy bought for $.62 a share – LOL ! ! ! ! ! !

    And why does someone want to publish all taxpayers tax burden?

    Trying to make a lame analogy in opposition to the obvious need for public disclosure of the incomes of PUBLIC EMPLOYEES perhaps ?

    Maybe someone is just P.O’d and not thinking straight.

  • Elwood

    “the generational discrimination of Prop. 13”

    Gonna be tough titty!

    Right here in river city!

  • John W

    9, 10, and 11 above

    Thanks for info Common Tater. The uniqueness of blockshopper.com is that you can look at all the homes in a given neighborhood in one view.

    Can always count on Elwood for that empathy thing.

    Livestrong — Average residential property tax in CA relative to market value is about .5% — with anybody who bought in the past several years paying about 1.25% — depending on special assessments and parcel taxes and anybody who owned 30 years ago (or inherited from somebody who did) paying a small fraction of that. New generation of homeowners pay about the highest effective taxes in the country (for comparable homes) so that long-timers can pay the lowest in the country. Those who defend the system like to compare it to a sales tax, which is charged based on what the item cost at the time of purchase. But we are all paying for the same current basket of services (whether we directly use them or not). Limiting growth in property taxes was necessary. It just should have been done in a way that was fair to everybody, not based on when a home was purchased. It’s just one more reason for employers to avoid CA, so that their employees won’t be subjected to thousands in extra housing costs. Provisions could have been made for seniors with moderate incomes (deferral until property sold, reverse mortgage etc.) In a way, that’s taxation without representation, in that the folks who have to pay the higher taxes didn’t get to vote on the idea.

  • Livestrong


    OK i get your points.

    I guess that I feel the generational prop 13 argument is simply an inaccurate characterization aimed at creating a divisiveness that completely ignores the OTHER revenue generating opportunities available to our communities and which prop 13 has no say in.

    On this point the record is pretty clear that voters do seem to give up more towards specific uses when put to a vote. Gen’l fund “black hole” proposals seem to crash and burn pretty routinely.

    From this perspective, prop 13 can be viewed simply as a scapegoat for an inability to rationalize and pass new tax sources AND which, when they do pass, we all pay at current market rates.

    Now that we’ve got that straightened out, let’s turn our attentions to the question of why voters are so squeeky tight with passing new tax initiatives . . . .

  • John W

    Not sure if anybody is still looking at this post, but I’ll respond to #13. Interesting number in light of the subject at hand. I agree that voters do seem to be more willing to pony up when they know the money won’t just be sucked back into the general fund. Makes sense. I don’t expect that the political stars will ever align to permit fixing what I see as the problems with Prop. 13. However, if it ever happened, it would have to be done in a way to give local government more control over the money. I don’t agree with your observation that the generational argument is just a way to creative “divisiveness.” But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.