Tuesday, March 28, 2017
The records of a newly released, searchable database are now more complete after the state of Michigan supplied corrected information to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
The Mackinac Center published the Michigan Government Salaries Database on Thursday last week in partnership with the Michigan Press Association and Michigan Coalition for Open Government. The database contains information posted exactly as it was received from the state through the Freedom of Information Act process. But within hours of the launch, the Mackinac Center began receiving notifications from users that some salary information was incorrect, to the point where some state employees were listed as making hundreds of thousands of dollars more a year than the Governor. In response, the Mackinac Center temporarily removed information for thousands of Department of Corrections employees and contacted state officials to resolve the issue.
Friday evening, the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget sent a letter to the Center saying, “(The Office of Retirement Services) found that a technical error resulted in wages being counted more than once for a small population of 4,500 state employees.”
A new set of records was sent along with the letter, however, the files containing those records also had errors and were unusable. On Monday, the Center sought out a third set of records, which the state provided and confirms are correct. The third set of salary records for Department of Corrections employees has been uploaded to the database.
Mackinac Center Executive Vice President Michael Reitz said the Office of Retirement Services’ (ORS) error may raise additional questions about the agency’s record keeping and data management.
“One must now question if this FOIA response is the only thing ORS is doing in error,” Reitz said. “Has the office based retirement calculations on these erroneous and inflated salaries? How long has ORS had bad salary data? Why didn’t anyone within the office question why a Department of Corrections employee was supposedly paid $400,000? Legislators should conduct a thorough review of this office and its record keeping procedures and demand answers.”
Reitz said this error demonstrates the importance and value of such a database being broadly available to the public. It was citizens using the database, not the state’s own experts, who caught the mistakes.
“Sunshine is the best disinfectant, as we’ve seen since publishing this database last week,” Reitz said. “This error would not have been discovered if not for the Michigan Government Salaries Database. The taxpayers of Michigan pay these salaries and deserve easy access to accurate information.”
Reitz went on to urge lawmakers to move forward with legislation that would post all public employee compensation information online. The information is already in the public record, but most people lack the resources to obtain it.
“The process for filing FOIAs and compiling information, as the Center has done, is time-consuming and expensive,” Reitz said. “Even after months since our initial requests, we are still seeking data from individual agencies and school districts in an effort to complete the database. Michigan should lead the way and embrace transparency.”
Additional information on the database can be found here.
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