Anger in Michigan about state salary database

South Dakota’s open records laws are so weak that it is ranked at the very bottom of the heap in comparison to other states.

The Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is one newspaper in that state that is working to raise public awareness about the importance of open government. On June 17, the Argus Leader published a comprehensive list about the availability in each state of salary information for government employees.

Their implication is that it is desirable for this information to be available to the public.

Meanwhile, a furor erupted in Michigan late last week when the Lansing State Journal published an online database of 53,000 state government employees and their salaries.

Writers at Michigan Liberal posted a diary with a number of interesting comments taking exception to the publication of the database. One blogger has called for people to cancel their subscriptions to the paper.

A later diary at Michigan Liberal criticizes the list for not being comprehensive and for not providing information in context.

While it’s true that a fact about how much an employee in a given position earns is pretty meaningless without context, it’s also true that publication of this and similar databases will give researchers and interested parties some of the beginning facts they’d need in order to do more comprehensive, in-context work.

UPDATE: Todd Wallack’s Muckraker blog recently came up with a list of other newspapers that have published databases of government employees and their salaries.


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