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Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida

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Florida Department of Law Enforcement employee salaries are public records under the Florida Sunshine Law.

Governor Rick Scott's office launched a website on March 17, 2011 that provides access to frequently requested public records and information, including a state employee salary database and a list of state pension benefits that exceed $100,000.[1]

The website, FloridaHasARightToKnow.com, also includes contract records, information on rule-making statuses and procedures and links to other open government resources.

Gun registry report

In November 2013, a Florida state auditor general’s report found that the Department of Law Enforcement's state gun registry MECOM, which is used for preventing the sale of firearms to those who are considered “mentally defective” by the state and those committed to mental institutions, suffers from "shoddy record keeping." The report also stated that some records "may not have been recorded," leading to "an increased risk" that a legally declared mentally unfit person could potentially purchase a weapon.[2]

"Our audit tests disclosed that the data was often not timely recorded and, in some instances, may not have been accurately and completely recorded," the report stated. The auditor’s report also found that a data entry period between July 2011 and April 2013 showed no records had been created for 10 Florida counties going back to 2007.[2]

Salaries

According to FloridaHasARightToKnow.com, there are 19 employees that earned over $100,000 a year in 2011.[3]

  • The highest salary was for Executive Director Gerald Bailey, who earned $128,749.92 a year as of 2011.
Last name First name Class title State hire date Salary
Bailey Gerald Executive Director-Fdle 1987-12-16 $128,749.92
Zadra Mark Assistant Executive Director-Fdle 1978-03-06 $124,381.40
Madden James Assistant Executive Director-Fdle 1990-05-07 $124,000.24
Dawley Joyce Director-Fdle 1981-05-18 $118,275.82
Pape Dominick Director-Fdle 1988-03-14 $115,565.84
Uzzell Donna Director, Criminal Justice Info - Fdle 1993-10-05 $115,450.66
Ladner Robert Director-Fdle 1995-03-27 $112,000.20
Ramage Michael General Counsel-Fdle 1980-05-05 $111,060.04
Etheridge Jay Florida Domestic Security Chief-Fdle 1990-05-07 $111,044.70
Desposito Steven Director-Fdle 1993-08-16 $110,000.02

Benefits

Special agents for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are offered the following benefits:[4]

  • Health insurance
  • Dental, vision, life, cancer and disability insurance
  • Retirement plan (no employee contribution)
  • Deferred compensation
  • Incentive pay
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Equipment provided
  • Take-home vehicle
  • Clothing allowance
  • Leave: sick, vacation, holidays

Salary records project

In 2011, Sunshine Review chose 152 local governments as the focus of research on public employee salaries. The editors of Sunshine Review selected eight states with relevant political contexts (listed alphabetically):

1. California
2. Florida
3. Illinois
4. Michigan
5. New Jersey
6. Pennsylvania
7. Texas
8. Wisconsin

Within these states, the editors of Sunshine Review focused on the most populous cities, counties and school districts, as well as the emergency services entities within these governments. The purpose of this selection method was to develop articles on governments affecting the most citizens.

The salary information garnered from these states were a combination of existing online resources and state Freedom of Information Act requests sent out to the governments.

Importance of public employee pay disclosure

In July 2010, The Los Angeles Times uncovered that officials in Bell, California were making remarkably high salaries.[5] Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo was earning a yearly $787,637. It was later uncovered that Rizzo's total compensation after taking benefits into account topped $1.5 million a year.[6]

For comparison:[5]

  • Manhattan Beach, with about 7,000 fewer people than Bell, paid its most recent city manager $257,484 a year.
  • Long Beach, with a population close to 500,000, paid its city manager $235,000 annually.
  • Los Angeles County paid its chief executive, William T. Fujioka, $338,458.

Corruption solution

After this report was released, governments began to proactively disclose salary information of their employees. Before the end of the summer of 2010, more than a dozen cities in Orange County, for example, posted salary information on the front pages of their websites.[7]

The cost of transparency websites maintaining such information ranges from the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands. These websites also save money, and this often is not taken into account when measuring costs.

Citizens upset about the breach of trust and armed with information formed a group called the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, which pushed for an independent audit of city salaries and contracts.[8]

Citizens, empowered with information, are key to keeping government free from corruption and efficient. A study published by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia revealed that the city of Philadelphia has a problem with the efficiency and costs of public employee pensions.[9] The amount that Philadelphia pays to pension recipients limits the city’s ability to use its budget effectively.

The report revealed that there were more individuals receiving pension benefits—33,907 claimants in 2006—than workers in the city—28,701.[9] The authors of the study recommend three steps towards addressing the problem of high costs in pensions.[9] First, improve data collection so that decision-making in terms of pension policies is more informed. Second, promote transparency for better accountability to citizens. Third, reduce costs and use the savings for developing Philadelphia.

Resistance to public employee salary data as public records

The idea of making public employee salaries is relatively new. In 2008, several local government employee associations and unions protested the posting of state employee salaries by newspaper The Sacramento Bee.[10][11] At the time, it was seen as a safety risk and invasion of privacy.

Sunshine Review aims in posting salary information

Publicly posted salaries often leave out important information. Salary schedules can be published as ranges, not as specific take-home compensation, and high-level, highly-paid positions are often not disclosed proactively.[7][6] Additionally, salaries leave out compensation received through health and retirement benefits, as well as benefits such as commuter allowances and cell phone reimbursements. This project aimed to close the gap and provide a more accurate picture of public employee salaries for the sake of public education and transparency.

See also

External links


References