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updated: 8/13/2014 5:21 AM

State agency is ignoring salary database law

Department says it wasn't given funding to create database

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  • Jack Franks

      Jack Franks

  • Susan Garrett

      Susan Garrett

 
 

An Illinois law requiring the state to keep a salary database of most local government employees is being disregarded because no money was ever appropriated to pay for it.

Department officials claim they didn't have to create the database because they were not given funding.

Some lawmakers say they were never told it would cost anything, maintain there is no additional cost and are upset they were never notified the law was being ignored.

"The statute indicates it was 'subject to appropriation,'" said Alka Nayyar, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, which was charged with creating the database. "I don't believe the General Assembly appropriated the funds required to implement the additions" to the Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal.

The portal was created in 2010 as an employment database of state workers that lists their names, job titles, current pay rates and year-to-date salary totals.

In 2012, a bill was passed that mandated Central Management Services add similar information for all county, township and municipal employees in the state. Public library employees also were supposed to be added when a law was passed last summer. Those additions never happened.

Nayyar said she did not immediately know how much money was needed to add the local government employees to the state database.

"It's nice to know these progressive bills we pass to increase transparency are being ignored," said Susan Garrett, a former Democratic state senator from Lake Forest who now heads up the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. "Unfortunately, I'm not surprised."

Garrett was a sponsor of the bill that added cataloging county, township and municipal employees to the Central Management Services webmaster's duties. That bill added the "subject to appropriation" provision.

Garrett and House co-sponsor state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, contend they were never made aware of any costs to implement the law. Unlike many other states, Illinois does not require legislation to carry fiscal notes that detail the financial effect of a bill's passage. While some Illinois legislators voluntarily add that information, it is rare. Neither bill adding local government employee data to the Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal included a fiscal note.

"There was no appropriation necessary," Franks said. Local governments "already have this information and all they have to do is transmit it to the state electronically. There's absolutely no cost and anybody who hides behind that ought to be tarred and feathered."

State law requires local government agencies to post salary information on their own websites about employees whose annual total compensation exceeds $75,000. Many post the information for all employees.

Franks said he'd ask Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office to look into why the law is being ignored.

West Chicago Republican state Rep. Mike Fortner was the chief sponsor of the bill to add library district employees to the database. He had no idea when his bill passed last August that Central Management Services officials hadn't implemented the database for other local government employees. He also said he was never informed of appropriation issues.

"I would naively suspect that if you've got the person on staff doing the website for the state agency, it's at most an incremental increase in responsibility," he said. "I get that the first time (reporting) may take more work, but maintaining it would not be near as much."

Because none of the laws include an enforcement component, there's little recourse to compel the state agency to create the databases, according to legal experts.

"This act misses an enforcement mechanism, so it's very hard to act on it and there's really nothing that can be done," said Andrea Alvarez, a community lawyer for the Elmhurst-based Citizen Advocacy Center. "Someone who would like it enforced could file a complaint with the state's attorney in their area."

Others were skeptical of the additional cost of adding local government employees to the state database.

"This is information that is basic and should be out there on each of these individual government's websites," said Madeleine Doubek, chief operating officer of Chicago-based Reboot Illinois, a voter-advocacy digital media group. "It really shouldn't take much time, effort or financial support to gather it together for the people who pay the salaries -- the taxpayers. And you'd think the sponsoring legislator would want to follow up at the very least to make sure something was happening."

But Franks said that responsibility should rest with the agency affected by a change in the law.

"I'm a lawmaker. I'm not the one who enforces the law," he said. "I assume that people will follow the law."

On Monday another state agency, the Illinois State Board of Education, acknowledged that it expects to be a year behind in posting public schoolteacher and administrator salary information on its school data website, www.illinoisreportcard.com.

The material was supposed to be posted in October, but spokeswoman Mary Fergus said the agency still is collecting the information from school districts.

Garrett believes there should be "safeguards" to ensure laws are being properly implemented.

"Right now, there's no mechanism to deal with that," she said. "If we aren't able to implement the bills, we should know that and get back to our constituents to let them know so we can readdress it if there's a problem."

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Contact Jake at jgriffin@dailyherald.com or (847) 427-4602. Follow him at facebook.com/jakegriffin.dailyherald and at twitter.com/DHJakeGriffin.

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