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There's always room for transparency

December 04, 2010

Whatever the public may think of bonuses for government employees — they're not unheard of from city to city — the decision by Glendale to publish the information this week was the right one, although it should have been made years ago.

Glendale officials repeatedly denied a City Hall critic's request for the public records, year after year, citing smoke-and-mirrors court cases, but that premise was apparently just that, given the abrupt turnaround on Wednesday, when the information was posted on the city's website.

Included in those records: Between 2000 and 2008, city managers and their executives received roughly $1 million in bonuses until the program ended as the economy went south and budgets started to suffer; and the entire system was accountable only to the city manager's office — the City Council had no direct say.

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Officials have in the past decried the release of such specific information, for fear it might affect employee morale, but these workplace issues are the implications of working in the public sphere.

Taxpayers have a right to know where their money is going. Employee salaries and benefits have been made public for years, and bonuses, essentially another form of compensation, should be no different.

In this post-city-of-Bell era, transparency in all aspects of employee compensation and financial management should be a top priority for taxpayers — and is for this newspaper.

The disclosure should also serve as a wake-up call to the City Council, which is made up of members elected by taxpayers to mind the house. A few thousand dollars here, a few more there, may sound like decisions for micro-managers, but when that adds up to more than $1 million over eight years, it's clear there needs to be some sort of direct reporting to the City Council.

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