Wick Communications

Reporting on public perks

In journalism on October 15, 2015 at 2:51 pm

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Last week, I got a hold of a 10-page contract that outlined terms of employment for a new bureaucrat in town. He will serve as general manager of a countywide district that manages a pair of local harbors. My best guess is that he will supervise about 15 employees and a seven-figure budget comprised of tax funds.

It was a pretty eye-opening experience. I know the kinds of perks that come with public employment in my state. But I didn’t really know. In this case, $172,500 in salary, two full months of vacation every year (you read that right), insurance, a pension, car and living allowances, professional memberships, all moving expenses. … It is more captain of industry stuff than harbor captain stuff.

You can read my bit of righteous indignation here.

In the course of my reporting, I found a terrific site, transperantcalifornia.com, that spells out the largess of public employment. (You think my harbor guy well paid? There is a former sergeant in a county jail who receives more than $265,000 a year in pension. I’m not making this up.)

Many of our papers have printed public salaries from time to time. (Doing so is sure to piss off folks in city hall and be widely read in the community. If you want to do that, I recommend attaching names to the salaries only for department heads and elected officials and just using job titles for the rank and file…)

But have you ever looked at all the perks? Personal time off, insurance costs, pension formulas? It’s can be pretty bracing, at least in California. …

I have heard from someone who says I’m unfairly denigrating public service employees and teachers, whom, he says, earn every penny they get. That may be true. There is no harm, then, in printing those pay packages and letting the taxpayers agree, right?

Just an idea for you.

Clay

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