Rules on posting public salaries may be revisited

LAS VEGAS — Nevada lawmakers who sparked criticism from transparency advocates when they excused cities and counties from posting public salaries online now say they would be open to reversing that regulation.The Legislative Commission, which is tasked with deciding how to implement new laws, passed rules Thursday allowing local governments to post only aggregate salary spending on their websites. Currently, they must post individual salaries. The Nevada Press Association and Nevada Policy Research Institute said the new regulations could open the door to salary abuse. “If they just store the information away in a file drawer where you have to come find it, it’s not as apparent as pushing it out to people where they can easily see it,” Barry Smith, the Nevada Press Association’s executive director, said Friday. “That serves as a deterrent to fraud and abuse.”He noted that local governments spend most of their taxpayer dollars on payroll. The new regulations implement SB65, a 2011 law that allowed local governments to post quarterly financial statements online instead of in newspapers. But they also give cities and counties permission to disclose their payroll expenses as a lump sum “without reference to the amounts paid to or on behalf of any individual.” That change would make it impossible to use the postings to spot exorbitant salaries like the $800,000 and $500,000 compensation packages that went unnoticed for years before making national headlines in the Southern California town of Bell. The regulations passed without debate, but some lawmakers who voted yes now say the issue warrants further discussion.“It was my understanding when the bill passed that this had to do with publishing records in the newspaper,” said Sen. Donald Gustavson, R- Washoe. “It’s something that they put in there, and I didn’t catch it.”Gustavson said he would support legislation that restored the salary disclosure requirement and “put some teeth into it.”Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said he voted for the regulation because he thought it was unfair to impose a requirement on local governments but not on the state. He said he would support increased transparency on both levels. “I believe that if you work for the government, your salary should be visible,” Settelmeyer said. “If a law comes forward to correct what has occurred, then the state should do it too.” Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D- Clark County, also was open to revisiting the issue.“I voted for the regulation. I’m not going to apologize for that,” she said. “I think it could use some more discussion during session.” Not every lawmaker was sympathetic to the argument for increased transparency. “The taxpayer is entitled to know where their dollars are going, but we have to protect people’s personal information,” said Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas. “I think there’s enough information without having to provide information on individuals.”


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