Open Government Web Site Causing Stir

AUGUSTA — A Web site that lists the salary of every state employee by name has triggered a bill to protect their identity, pitting the public’s right to know against the privacy of individuals.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative Portland-based think tank, launched the Web site last September to track payrolls, pension payments and checks written by the state to individuals and businesses. The searchable database identifies every position by the name of the person who occupies it, which Sen. Lisa Marrache (D-Kennebec County) says has triggered fury among state workers.

To that end, Marrache has sponsored “An Act Regarding Salary Information for Public Employees,” which is scheduled for a public hearing before the Judiciary Committee April 30 in Room 438 of the State House. The two-sentence bill would make the names of state, county, municipal, school, University of Maine System, Maine Community College System and Maine Maritime Academy employees confidential. Salary amounts for individual positions would remain public, but with no names attached to them.

Tarren Bragdon, executive director of the Maine Heritage Policy Center said salary information is “meaningless” without names attached.

Tim Belcher, executive director of the Maine State Employees Association said his office was flooded with calls from angry union members after the site was launched.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center plans to expand the Web site this year to include local government employees, Medicaid claims data, government employee contracts, tax collections data, updated payrolls and check register information.

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Nicole Ouellette

Nicole Ouellette

When Nicole isn't giving advice she's completely unqualified to give, she runs an Internet marketing company in Bar Harbor, where she lives with her husband Derrick and their short dog Gidget. She loves young adult novels, cooking and talking French to anyone who'll talk back. [email protected]