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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How to look up City, School, PMUA and Housing Authority salaries

Lots of readers are interested in more Plainfield salary information (see comments on yesterday's post here).

Here's what to do --
  • Go to the 'employee pay' page on the Courier's Data Universe here.
  • Do NOT use the 'Last Name' or 'First Name' lines unless you only want an INDIVIDUAL salary figure.
  • Use the 'AGENCY' line to scroll waaay down to choose one of these options --
    • Plainfield Board of Ed
    • Plainfield City
    • Plainfield Housing Authority
    • Plainfield Municipal Utilities Authority
  • You may only choose ONE option for each search.
  • Make sure you allow popup windows for this site.
  • Hit 'Search' and you will get your results, 10 per page, in a new window (this means you will have multiple pages).
That's the good news. The bad news is that owing to the design of the database, the report returned to you is sorted by FIRST NAME and not last name, but at least you will have what you want.

There will be some discrepancy between the report and actual employee data for three reasons --
  1. the data are for 2008, not 2009;
  2. employees don't show up as pension contributors until after they have been employed at least one year;
  3. seasonal and provisional employees seem not to be listed.
There is also an option to search for double-dippers at the bottom of the page, but that is not really an issue in Plainfield.

As for whether or not public employee salaries should be public information, as a retired public employee I am all in favor of it.

If we had had this database when I still working years ago, you could have known the truth about what I was paid (as opposed to the wild exaggerations put out by various and sundry) with a click or two.

(ASIDE: I started with Mayor Al McWilliams' first administration in 1998 -- having come over from the Library, where I worked for three years -- at $40,000 and after civil service title and step upgrades retired in 2006 at $66,000. My civil service classification put me in a group that included, among others, the Directors of Recreation and the Senior Center. An amusing aside is that when the Council wanted to put me in a layoff plan during one of its anti-McWilliams snits, some members were chagrined to learn that I had seniority and 'bumping' rights in my civil service classification and that a layoff would have knocked someone other than moi out of the ring. End of layoff threat.)

-- Dan Damon

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Anonymous said...

If you were so hot to let others know your true salary you could have just found a way to publicize it without supporting the exposure of the 400,000 other local government workers.

A citizen for open government said...

Employers have a right to know their employee's salaries, and as a member of the public who pays my taxes, I am one of the many, many employers of government workers. If anonymous is so worried about having their salary publicly available, they can take their paycheck from a private company instead of from the taxpayers.

Dan said...

To 7:09 AM --

What's the big deal? Are folks 'worth' more because they're paid more? Or less if they're paid less?

There's an interesting book you could read, 'Dirt, Greed and Sex'.

If you're a public employee and it bothers you, why not consider a job in the private sector?

That is, if they ever start hiring again.

Anonymous said...

According to Data Universe in 2008 there were 1,754 total combined employees of Plainfield City, the Plainfield Board of Ed, PMUA, and the Plainfield Housing Authority.

PSS 1089 $62,000,000 $56.9K ave
City 475 $32,000,000 $67.8K ave
PMUA 150 $4,900,000 $32.8K ave
PHA 40 $1,800,000 $45.0K ave

Totals $100,900,000 $57.5K ave

Anonymous said...

Amazing...thanks for the insight Dan! It is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

The real number is larger than this.

All these organizations have to pay health insurance and pensions. And, there are those who are and will receive these benefits who are retired or served long enough but were not re-elected.

Anonymous said...

1,700 employees making an average of $57,000 is a pretty good buyer pool for 63 subsidized condos.

And a lot of voters.

Anonymous said...

Dear 8:18

You are not the employer of government workers, the government is. You're just a guy who pays for the salaries through your taxes, not unlike how you pay for the cashiers' salaries when you shop at Trader Joes. They're both transfers of money, whether through a corporate intermediary or a government agency.

If you don't like the service you can choose not to patronize Trader Joes or complain to the manager. If you don't like the political leadership you can vote against the various current administrations, or move. But note that either case you have no power to hire or fire anyone directly, because you're not the employer.

And I'm not a government worker. I just think a little more than you do about the potential consequences of readily available personal information.

But maybe next year, in the interests of open government, we can introduce a bill that lists all public workers IQ's, so we can play political god and decide who's smart enough to deserve their salary.

Anonymous said...

Bad news for 7:05am: These salary numbers were always available upon request, and many of them were/are periodically published in the local newspapers of each individual town to which they apply. "Supporting the exposure" is a characterization that's melodramatic at best and idiotic at worst. I, for one, want to know where my tax money is going.

Mike said...

Why does the PMUA have more employees than the Police dept?

Why is the PMUA's executive's salary higher than almost all other Plainfield administrators?

Does it take a highly skilled person to run a trash company that has financial losses?

The time for corruption has come to an end!

Anonymous said...

Now, let's find out what the Lawyers, Engineers and Special Advisors are making. Then you will see where the REAL money goes in the PMUA & City.

A citizen for open government (aka 8:18 am) said...

Dear 9:54,

Your analogy is flawed. Rather than voter is to government as consumer is to merchant, the reality is voter:gov't::shareholder:corporation.

Unlike a Trader Joe's manager, our elected officials are our agents, and we as a collective employ them and those whom they hire. Shareholders in corporations have rights to know certain information about that corporation's pay structures which allows them to make decisions about their corporation's management.

I concede that this level of information as nowhere near as extensive as the information on public employees' compensation is, but there are majors differences between government and corporations that justify this. For example, partial ownership of a corporation is never mandatory. Membership of a government can be. "Just move," sounds nice, but it is often not practical or even economically feasible. Additionally, a corporation never has the right to drag you to jail at gunpoint for doing something it doesn't like. The authority government officials have over voters is justification enough in my mind to provide voters additional tools to be informed "shareholders-in-government".

Besides, we often ask public employees to sacrifice some of their rights as citizens in order to ensure that the rest of our rights as citizens are preserved. NJ State employees, for example, cannot run for public office. Requiring the disclosure of public employees' salaries seems like a reasonable step to ensure that our officials aren't abusing us. As I said before, working for the government isn't mandatory. I would go so far as to call it a privilege.

The release of public employees' salaries is a small harm compared to the potential harm in concealing public expenditures from the public. Someone's salary isn't that useful in terms of identity theft and all truly sensitive data is restricted. However, the power of government to hide the truth from us is real and often (mis)used. As citizen-shareholders, we have a right to know how our officials are spending the money they demand from us (again, technically at gunpoint). Because of this, the release of this data is both appropriate and necessary.

Anonymous said...

Dear open government

I buy your analogy of taxpayer as shareholder rather than consumer but it does nothing to justify the publishing of our neighbors salaries, which does absolutely nothing to protect us from government. I'm all for publishing elected officials and executives earnings and donations, I'm for knowing in the abstract how many employees make how much, and I wouldn't mind so much if the names could be found out in OPRA requests, but to have everyone's salary on full public view, so any annoyed parent on a whim can look up any kid's teacher for any intent, is pointless and an invasion of their privacy. We as fellow citizens have no right to ask more of them then we do of ourselves.

My "move" suggestion was no lamer than your "can take their paycheck from a private company instead of from the taxpayers." Talk about illiquid impracticalities...

And if you truly are the employer of the public employees, you're doing one hell of a crappy job.

Anonymous said...

The salary information is public and public employees should be aware of this. If they're not, it's up to HR directors to let them know this. The newspapers publish this as public information. Like it or not, it's legal. I am a public employee, although not in Plainfield. I saw my salary up there, and so did my friends. If I want my salary to be private, I will change jobs. As a citizen, I want to know how much the people who work on my behalf in the public sector make. My taxes pay their salaries. You shouldn't (and don't) have to fill out an OPRA request for this kind of information. It should remain freely available. If people want to look it up and complain, they have the right to do so. We live in a free and open society. I agree with your final point, though, that as public employers, the citizens don't do a very good job in some areas. We need to hold our employees accountable.