Watchdog group: City slow to provide financial documents

From the Idaho Press Tribune

Bryan Dooley
bdooley@idahopress.com
Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

NAMPA — An open-government watchdog says Nampa officials are dragging their feet in response to his request for financial records that give employees’ salaries.

But city leaders said they were reluctant to release employee names, which some workers feared could be used to target them for identity theft and other crimes.

Idaho Freedom Foundation Executive Director Wayne Hoffman criticized the slow response to his request for information including names, positions and pay rates for all city employees.

The government transparency group intends to publish the information on its Web site, www.idahofreedom.net, alongside other data to allow taxpayers to track how and where officials spend money.

Hoffman said he submitted his request June 24, and Nampa officials have promised to respond by today. Caldwell, Boise, Canyon and Ada counties and other agencies have responded promptly to similar requests, Hoffman said, and privacy concerns have not been a major issue.

“It’s just not something that should take two weeks to process,” he said.

The former spokesman for U.S. Rep. Bill Sali also said he had received e-mails from about a dozen Nampa employees who did not want the information disclosed.

“Any way you interpret the statute, it says that the name, title and rate of pay of public employees are public record,” Hoffman said. He said he was not aware of any case in which release of such information compromised the safety of a government worker.

Payroll is a large part of most government agencies’ budgets, making transparency and public scrutiny crucial, Hoffman said.

Nampa Mayor Tom Dale said he hoped to discuss the matter and potential unintended consequences further with Hoffman.

“I’m very much in front of helping him in his project, as he calls it, for transparency in government,” Dale said. “I’m just wondering if there’s a way for him to accomplish his goal” without tying employee names to their payroll data.

Dale and City Clerk Diana Lambing were unsure whether the information prepared to submit to Hoffman today would include the names. Lambing said she believed the names had been removed.

Hoffman said he would wait to see whether the names are included before deciding how to move forward. If the names are missing, the response would be out of compliance with his request and state public records laws, he said.

From the Idaho Press Tribune

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