There are five things we know about state worker pay
Lansing State Journal
LANSING – Retired state workers have taken to social media to cry foul on an Illinois-based transparency group that has requested the names and pension amounts for government retirees.
In a memo last week, the state’s Office of Retirement Services informed pensioners that American Transparency — a Burr Ridge, Ill. nonprofit with a data processing center in Boca Raton, Fla. — had used the state’s Freedom of Information Act to seek the information. The agency assured retirees that no “sensitive information” such as Social Security numbers, dates of birth, contact information or medical records would be released.
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Still, state retirees vented frustration online, with most especially angry that the company had obtained their names. Many worried they could unnecessarily become targets and said the nonprofit could analyze the cost of pensions to taxpayers without their names attached.
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“It’s identity theft,” Howell’s Dianne Salisbury, 73, told the State Journal on Tuesday. “It’s not very conscionable for them to do this. Why do they need that information?”
Salisbury and her husband are both state retirees and wrote a letter to American Transparency last week, telling officials there they were “doing the public great harm and we wish you to stop.”
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The nonprofit, which also goes by the name Open the Books, wants retirees’ names because “it’s crucial to thorough oversight,” Adam Andrzejewski, the group’s founder and CEO, said in an email to the State Journal on Tuesday. With names, the data was able to out several public officials in Illinois — including two union lobbyists, a former governor and another governor’s chief of staff — who were double-dipping or otherwise gaming the pension system there.
“In order to have robust public policy discussions, everything must be on the table – including public employee pay and pension data,” Andrzejewski said. “Citizens should not have to have a search warrant to see how their money is being spent.”
The group has already posted information from past years in its searchable online databases — including names, salaries and pension amounts — for Michigan state workers and retirees and millions of other public employees from around the country. The current request is a continuation of those efforts, Andrzejewski said.
Michigan state workers were similarly peeved in March, when the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Midland-based free market think tank, requested and posted salary information with names attached.
The information is public through the state’s open records laws, which are designed to give citizens the ability to access the inner workings of their government. But many state employees and retirees point out that they perform or performed sensitive work — from criminal investigations to handling child abuse cases to collecting unpaid taxes — that could make them especially vulnerable to critics who want to target them.
In their letter, the Salisburys asked American Transparency to post a list of its officers, board members and their wages.
Some of that information is already publicly available because of the group’s nonprofit status.
Its latest IRS tax forms show the company received $1.2 million in donations and other revenue in 2015, though its donors are kept secret. Andrzejewski made $29,800 that year, while its chief operations officer, Craig Mijares, was paid $142,346. Other board members were unpaid.
Contact Justin A. Hinkley at (517) 377-1195 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley. Sign up for his email newsletter, SoM Weekly, at on.lsj.com/somsignup.
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