Pay List on State Website Spurs Suit - Albuquerque Journal

Pay List on State Website Spurs Suit

SANTA FE – New Mexico’s largest public employee union is arguing that Gov. Susana Martinez provided too much sunshine – and violated state law -by posting the names and salaries of rank-and-file state government employees on a state-run online database.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 18 filed a lawsuit this week in state District Court in Albuquerque to compel Martinez to remove the information added last year to the state’s Sunshine Portal.

A spokesman for the Republican governor said Thursday that the Martinez administration has legal authority to post the names and salary data of all workers. The attorney representing AFSCME in the case disagreed.

“It’s our position that the portal law was written pretty clearly to protect rank-and-file employees from having their names associated with their salaries,” Albuquerque attorney Shane Youtz said.

Martinez said in October 2011 that the names and salaries of all state workers – from janitors to elected officials – would be posted on the Sunshine Portal.

“Frankly, at the end of the day, the citizens of New Mexico pay their salaries, and they should know what they earn,” Martinez told members of the New Mexico Press Association in announcing the change, which was implemented two months later.

Previously, the online site listed both the names and salary information for certain political appointees and other government employees who are exempt from state personnel hiring rules. For the more than 18,000 so-called classified state employees, only the job titles, state agency and salary levels were posted – no names.

AFSCME, which represents more than 10,000 public sector workers in New Mexico, responded to the governor’s order by sending a letter to Martinez in February asking that the names of classified employees be removed from the Sunshine Portal.

Martinez did not oblige, which led to the lawsuit, Youtz said.

The Sunshine Portal was approved by the Legislature in 2010 and created later that year. It offers a searchable database containing information on state spending, incoming revenue contracts, employee salaries and more.

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, which supported last year’s decision to post the full information on rank-and-file workers, maintained its stance Thursday.

“We have consistently supported the idea that public information should be made available as much as possible,” said Gwyneth Doland, the group’s executive director. “And it’s our position that this is public information.”

Youtz said the legal question hinges not on transparency but on whether Martinez ignored state law by adding the names of classified workers.

“The union and its membership don’t have any problem with transparency as directed by the statute,” Youtz said.

Following Martinez’s decision last year to post the names of rank-and-file workers on the Sunshine Portal, a legislative attempt to change the law to encompass the already-posted data failed during this year’s 30-day session.
— This article appeared on page C01 of the Albuquerque Journal

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