On Thursday, March 16, 2017, SEIU Local 517M Executive Director Liza Estlund Olson testified before the House Oversight and Ethics Committee on HB 4301 which would require the State to maintain a monthly updated web site which would include state employee FULL names, work title, Department, salary and benefits received.
The legislation was introduced by Rep. Brandt Iden (R- Oshtemo Twp.) as part of ‘Sunshine” week which focuses on transparency in government. Liza spoke on two specific issues; first, the issue of identity theft and the fact that putting this information on a web site in conjunction with other information available (ie: home ownership from register of deed sites), would allow for identity thieves to build a profile which would allow for bogus banks loans, fake unemployment claims and credit cards. Secondly, she spoke to Rep. Kevin Hertel’s (D- St. Clair Shores) amendment requiring contractors who work for the State to be included on the list. If Rep. Iden’s true interest is giving taxpayers a true picture of the cost of work done on behalf of Michigan citizens, there are thousands of private sector contractors who work right next to state employees every day and receive their salary from state tax dollars and they should be included on the same list.
We believe this will be voted on quickly in the House and democrats will try again to amend the legislation from the floor. The Senate leadership currently does not include staff names on their web site so it is unclear if the Senate will move on this legislation quickly. Key points for those who are interested in contacting their legislator include:
- We agree with transparency in government but why is it only state employees who have to be transparent? The Legislature is not required to provide names and benefits of their staff unless the Speaker of the House or President of the Senate agree. Currently the House does list staff names the Senate does not.
- Identity theft has become rampant and this will provide FULL names, job titles, department, salary and now benefit information which can be used with other “public” information to file for fake bank loans, credit cards, unemployment benefits and mortgages. This type of data mining can put all state employees at significant increased risk for identity theft.
- This information is already available under FOIA which leaves a paper trail of who wants the information. This web site will mostly be used for prurient interests. Your neighbor or brother-in-law can sit in their bunny slippers at midnight looking up how much “Bob” makes. To what end? It also allows private contractors to data mine to undercut state costs on job bids.
- This can also be a safety concern for those being stalked or bothered by ex-spouses or previous relationships. Now you must explain to your supervisor and those above them something messy in your personal life; have them agree, then have to send over to DTMB and have them know about your personal situation and decide, based on an unknown standard that you are either on or off the list. Very intrusive process.
- Transparency of salaries and benefits should include the 10’s of thousands of contractors who work right next to state employees and whose salaries come from taxpayer dollars. When asked, the state should be able to tell Michigan citizens how many private sector employees work for state government. Their salary and benefits are also paid by the taxpayers so we should know who they are and what they make.
- Taxpayers need to demand true transparency and include ALL workers who receive a salary from tax payer dollars. This hides the true/real costs of privatization because taxpayers can’t FOIA information about contractors.
- Michigan is ranked 50th among the states with regard to government transparency. A significant decrease from our standing under the last administration and legislature.