Ever have dealings with a Baltimore County government official and think, "I wonder how much he (or she) makes?"
Now, if you have a computer with Web access, you can find out almost instantly.
As of July 1, the annual salary of every county employee has been posted online.
Go to http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov, search under "agencies" for "human resources," then click on "employee salaries." There you will find no fewer than 184 PDF pages — each with 42 names, job descriptions and salaries — comprising all county employees listed alphabetically by last name, starting with Abbot and ending with Zunikoff.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is taking the credit for this.
"It's another way that County Executive Kamenetz is moving forward for increased transparency in county government, and use technology more efficiently," said Ellen Kobler, a county spokeswoman.
It is not as if these salaries were ever secret. The county's payroll is public record and the county has always been obliged, if asked, to disclose anyone's salary, from traffic crossing guards at the lower end to department directors and the brass in the police and fire departments at the higher. In fact, 16 of the 25 highest-paid county employees are in the police department.
Topping the payroll were Police Chief James Johnson ($204,750), State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger ($194,276), Information Technology Director Robert Stradling ($198,900) and Administrative Officer Frederick Homan ($190,000).
Kobler acknowledged that some county employees are less than thrilled to have the world know their pay with the click of a mouse. But, she added, salaries are on record and the public is entitled to accurate, accessible information about county government.
No complaints have been voiced by County Council members. Fifth District Councilman David Marks, representing Towson and Perry Hall, said he had no objection to the public knowing his elected post pays $54,000.
One person who questioned the posting was Donna Spicer, a high-profile community activist from Loch Raven. Spicer, who frequently takes a watchdog role toward county government, took some exception in this case. She said "regular guy" employees' salaries could be posted by job description without using names, while those earning a certain amount and more — she suggested $80,000 — would be listed by name.
That's a nod to privacy we can sympathize with, but we think it would increase the bureaucratic effort involved in this disclosure. The idea is to decrease such effort.
Transparency in government is a good thing. If you go to work in the private sector, your salary is known by yourself and your employer (and perhaps your bank). Those going into the public sector should realize that another party, the taxpayers who pay their salary, are also in that loop.