Watchdog says public agencies should improve access to salary information

07/29/2020

A majority of Marin County websites failed to meet legal requirements to conspicuously link to recent information on officials’ compensation, a recent civil grand jury report found. To keep the public trust in government, the report called for greater transparency into the workings of public agencies, including the compensation of employees and elected officials. The April report, an effort of the 19-member independent watchdog group, cited the websites of the County of Marin, the Bolinas and Stinson Beach Fire Protection Districts and the Stinson Beach Water District for “missing or inconspicuous” links to compensation data. Against state regulations for transparency and prior grand jury recommendations, the websites rendered information on employees’ compensation difficult to find and outdated. The jury recommended that payroll links lie within three clicks or five minutes of searching from the home page in order to qualify as conspicuous. In response, the Marin County Board of Supervisors added two new links to the county website that, after three clicks from the home page, lead to the county’s most recent compensation data in the California State Controller’s Government Compensation database, at publicpay.ca.gov. Supervisors disagreed with the jury’s claim that the county “does not reasonably satisfy the intent of the Government Code” around compensation transparency. Still, they accepted the recommendation to direct the link to the county’s most recent calendar year compensation data, since the previous link defaulted to the State Controller’s Government Compensation Public Pay home page. Supervisors approved their response to the grand jury report last week, allowing it to be adopted and submitted to the presiding judge. The jury did not audit the Bolinas Community Public Utility District, the Inverness Public Utility District, the Muir Beach Community Services District, the Tomales Village Community Services District, the Transportation Authority of Marin or numerous other agencies, as those groups conspicuously linked to public pay data within three clicks of the home page. Still, it recommended that each of those agencies review its websites for compliance with both legal regulations and the jury’s recommendations. The highest paid Marin County employees, before benefits, are County Administrator Matthew Hymel at $306,472, Retirement Administrator Jeff Wickman at $274,186, County Counsel Brian Washington at $270,672 and Public Defender Jose Varela at $255,666. The highest paid elected officials, also before benefits, are District Attorney Lori Frugoli at $269,457, Sheriff-Coroner Robert Doyle at $257,680, Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk Shelly Scott at $212,139, and the five members on the Board of Supervisors—Damon Connolly, Katie Rice, Kathrin Sears, Dennis Rodoni and Judy Arnold—who each receive between $135,736 and $143,076. The Bolinas fire chief earns $109,847 in wages, while the Stinson Beach fire chief earns $94,466. At the Stinson Beach water district, the general manager earns $177,306; the supervisor $125,720; the inspector $109,213; and the plant operator $101,990.