County Executive Jan Gardner and Del. Jesse Pippy, chair of the county’s delegation in Annapolis, briefly clashed Wednesday over a proposed bill that would modify the state’s Public Information Act regarding county employee salaries.

At a meeting between the delegation and Gardner, the county executive briefly outlined the bill with the help of Chief Administrative Officer Rick Harcum. If the bill passes, salaries for county division directors and other at-will positions, like the CAO, would still need to be disclosed.

But only a salary range would be disclosed for lower-tier employees, like a bus driver or landfill worker, in order to prevent organizations like data mining companies from stealing financial information and participating in other forms of identity theft, Harcum and Gardner said.

Harcum pointed to his work before he joined county government, where many lower-level federal employees were exempt from providing exact salary information.

“Why we’re forced to disclose to the penny, the exact dollar amount that low-level staff make is beyond me,” Harcum said of the current public information law.

But Pippy (R-Frederick and Carroll) said the transparency of county government salaries outweighs the identity theft concerns. Taxpayers deserve to know what those employees make, he added.

“I think that anybody who signs up to work in public office does sacrifice some privacy to be in that position ... people have a genuine interest in who pays us and how much we are paid,” Pippy said. “So I would have a real difficult time making it easier to not make that information available, especially [if] that involves taxpayer dollars.”

“I always lean on, the more information the public has, the better,” Pippy later added.

He also pointed to an argument from Del. Karen Lewis Young (D-Frederick), who said even if salary ranges are disclosed for low-level employees, that wouldn’t necessarily protect them from identity theft.

But Gardner (D) pushed back on that argument, equating Pippy’s argument to an “apples and oranges” comparison. High-level appointed employees and elected officials like herself would not be affected by the law change, she said.

Lower-level employees are different than high-level elected officials in county and state government, Gardner said. Pippy, in part of his argument, said state delegates and senators needed to disclose their financial information each year.

“Our division directors have to do financial disclosure,” Gardner said. “But the average guy working on the highway crew or at the landfill or in an administrative position does not have to do a financial disclosure ... so I just felt that comparison was not that appropriate.”

Del. Carol Krimm (D-Frederick) was concerned the proposed change could be more of a statewide issue than just Frederick County. She suggested an organization like the Maryland Association of Counties could take up the issue.

Harcum said he would like Frederick County to lead efforts on a possible change to the law.

“I would love it if Frederick County led the state to catch up with where the federal government has been for many, many years,” Harcum said.

He recognizes, however, there might not be widespread support.

“Everybody realizes it’s going to run up against a healthy and respectable debate about transparency,” he said.

Follow Steve Bohnel on Twitter: @Steve_Bohnel.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

(26) comments

threecents

In my job, my co-workers and I are not allowed to know what each other gets paid, and that is probably for the best. We are not not even permitted to discuss it among ourselves. That might be too extreme, but the idea of making all government workers' salaries public information is also too extreme.

MD1756

"“I would love it if Frederick County led the state to catch up with where the federal government has been for many, many years,” Harcum said."

What the heck is he talking about? Either he is ignorant or lying. Federal government salaries (and bonuses) are available to the public. There are a number of websites where you can find the information on specific people. Here is just one example: https://www.federalpay.org/employees

The site also includes the following information: "Under open government transparency guidelines, information on public employees (including those employed by Federal, state, and municipal governments) is a matter of public record. FederalPay.org has created a powerful search tool that allows public access to the EHRI-SDM dataset, which contains records of most public employees of the United States' Federal Government. "

FROSTSDAD

Pippy is right, and as usual Gardner is not. Salary information needs to be disclosed with specificity. Taxpayer dollars are being used, and for that reason alone transparency is expected - especially considering the amount of expense waste. If a private company operated like the Frederick County Government, they’d be bankrupt.

The “excuse” of identity theft is a laughable reach as salary information is not personally identifiable information - which would be required to steal an identity.

Lastly, perhaps Jan should exercise caution in her messaging. “The average guy working on the highway crew or at the landfill” is both disrespectful and condescending. Every job matters - and doing one of those jobs doesn’t reduce an employee to “average.” Also, I’ve seen plenty of female employees on the road crew doing a fine job - not just “guys.” Words matter. One would think by now she’d have developed a bit of emotional intelligence.

NewMarketParent

@FROSTSDAD

I bless you with the highest of fives. ^5 ^5 ^5

HappySeller2014

Those are some superb points and observations, FROSTDAD. You are on the right side of this argument and I agree with you 100%. ALL jobs are important, whether held by men or women, and the lack of emotional intelligence here is stunning.

Greg F

When my tax dollars are spent, I want the ability to see exactly where they have gone. Salary publication also prevents rampant favoritism and racism. There are VERY few exemptions for feds. Sounds like someone wants to extrapolate that into a mountain vs a mole hill.

NewMarketParent

@Greg F

I couldn't agree with you more!

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Piedmontgardener

Pippy is right, Gardner is not. I really like her, but she's got the wrong idea here - sunshine is the best disinfectant, short of bleach. Said as someone who just voted for Biden.

NewMarketParent

@Piedmontgardner

I agree. I don't like Gardner though. Someone who claims disclosing this information leads to identity theft doesn't understand how any of this works and is purposely trying to use ignorance to avoid transparency.

threecents

Are you saying Jan lied?

FrederickFan

Pippy compared county employees to elected officials. Bad comparison. Of course those salaries are known and disclosed. It was not the topic of discussion. Pippy is useless. Can anyone think of one thing he has done?

KellyAlzan

remember ba'lane young giving a high paying finance job to one of his girls? Yes, it highlights WHY we must monitor salaries

Greg F

Nepotism and favoritism.....two reasons to disclose.

KellyAlzan

tax dollars means everything is public no secrets. dont like it than work elsewhere

HappySeller2014

FREDERICK COUNTY, MD yearly public salary information on employees should be available down the the dollar for any employee. As well as any yearly bonuses or financial awards given in addition to paid salary. I have no right to ascertain any benefit choices and costs for any given specific public employee, as those are personal choices.

This is what is available at the state level across the US in publically acessable internet searches, and for the 2.1 M federal employee workforce nationwide.

The fraud angle here is a red herring. Bunk. I want the ability and deserve the right to know I can find the salary of a bus driver, cafeteria worker, teacher, school administrator, budget division director, county executive...or even school crossing guard. And any finacial bonuses they accrue. After all, it is my personal county taxpayers dollars paying for all of this, and I pay A LOT in FREDERICK COUNTY, MD.

Is somebody trying to hide something here? Ranges are for clay pigeons and target practice, not public employee taxpayer funded salary information.

DickD

For what reason do you have a need to all individual salaries. A range is sufficient, anything else is just plain nosy. A range of salary has nothing to do with a rifle range. That is silly.

NewMarketParent

I disagree. I think it is important and serves the public interest. If nothing else, it helps with rooting out corruption. Imagine you saw someone who you knew had a $60K/yr job in the public sector driving a $150K car and some developer is buying swaths of land with intentions of bulldozing it. It just so happens that a ton of decisions about those purchases come straight through this persons office. Without those bits of information, it would be harder for the public to connect the possible corruption dots.

I just don't buy the argument that obscuring this information does anything useful.

gabrielshorn2013

Agreed NMP. If you work in the public sector funded by taxpayer revenue, your job and everything about it is public, including salary. Good example too.

HappySeller2014

Agreed NMP. Sunshine down to the dollar.

HappySeller2014

YO DickD! Well, if you give the EXXON gas station attendant $5 for gas for your car, wouldn't you want to know you got 2.04 gallons at $2.499 a gallon?

If not, and every customer gets fleeced a little bit, it could grow to a lot of fraud being committed at that gas pump by someone.

Often very valuable to know the little things, DickD! Especially when it come to YOUR and MY taxpayer dollars.

public-redux

“...and I pay A LOT in FREDERICK COUNTY, MD.”

Do you want us to take your word on that (aka, trying to hide something here) or are you planning on documenting your claim?

Blueline

You can find the property tax online.

public-redux

I know. And your point is....?

threecents

Blue, What is your salary and your full name?

HappySeller2014

Take my word on that. I pay so much it probably helps cover a lot of your local social services, public-redux. Whether you believe me or not is # 47 on my list of Top 20 things I have conerns with today.

public-redux

I'll give you all the credit you've earned so far.

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