Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones ruled last month that the city was required to release individual payout amounts. And on Tuesday, the City Council wisely decided not to appeal.
It is a victory for governmental transparency, and a reminder of the importance of an independent press. People have a right to know what their city officials and elected leaders are up to, how they decide to spend their money, who gets it and how much.
But as a resident of Burbank, it pains me that my tax dollars paid for this. The paper is entitled to recoup its legal costs, which currently stand at $39,218 and will likely rise a bit. Simply stated: We should not have had to file this suit in the first place.
The city has consistently argued that workplace privacy laws prohibited them from releasing the information, and that revealing who received what bonus was tantamount to revealing their performance evaluation. But the state Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that public employees have no expectation that their salaries will remain private, and that decision carried the day.
City officials have told us they were concerned employees might sue if such records were released.
I am not unsympathetic to the quandary City Council members found themselves in. Be sued by the paper, or be sued by employee groups? I am very much aware that you cannot please everyone, and that people will question your courage, morals and motives sometimes, it seems, for the sport of it.
But the choice is revealing. When push came to shove, the city leaders of Burbank chose not to look out for the interests of the people of the city, but for city workers.