State finances now online
Published 12:00 am Friday, October 9, 2009
Taxpayers can now see where their money is spent within the state level.
Gov. Bob Riley, in hopes of increasing accountability in state government, launched a Web site, open.alabama.gov, which shows all transactions from the state.
“Every time we make government more transparent, we make it more honest and accountable to the people it serves,” Riley said. “Every time we open up the books and tell taxpayers exactly how their hard-earned dollars are being spent, we make it much harder for politicians to waste them or spend them dishonestly.”
The site has actually been available since the end of February but became searchable only recently.
These transactions include state employees salaries.
Now, anyone can go online and find out how much a state employee was paid during a pay period.
For example, Pike County Human Resources Director Florence Mitchell made $3,263.30 gross pay on Oct. 1, and Health Department Director Ron Wheeler made $3,7820.20 gross pay also on Oct.1
Employee salaries used to be kept confidential, but that’s no longer the case.
“First of all, all of this is public information anyway,” said Riley’s Press Secretary Todd Stacey. “Anybody could make a phone call to the state to find out any expenditure whether it’s to an agency, whether it’s buying office supplies or paying state employees.” Stacey said the governor wanted to make every check available online. “Basically, we put the checkbook online so the state would be more transparent, which brings more accountability,” Stacey said. “It’s all about building trust. It’s about giving the government back to the people. It’s their money anyway, and taxpayers deserve to see where there money is going and now they can.” The initiative became law in May, as two north Alabama lawmakers, Sen. Arthur Orr and Rep. Mike Ball sponsored the legislation.
“This new law requires the Web site to be maintained and publicly accessible no matter who sits in the governor’s chair,” Riley said. “It guarantees that even after I’m gone and my executive order has expired, the state’s checkbook will remain online for all to see.”
Locally, the city of Troy allows the public to access employees’ salaries. “It’s public information,” said City Clerk Alton Starling. “Our procedure is to send a letter or e-mail to the mayor requesting it.”
In the county, Administrator Harry Sanders said it’s not a standard practice to give out county employee information, but they do for county commissioners.
“We don’t typically turn that out to anyone,” Sanders said. “I’m not sure that we can. I know that it may be public information. If the commission chose to do that, we certainly would.”
Sanders said certainly someone could argue that it’s public information, but there could also be an argument of confidentiality.
But, for those who want to make a request, Sanders said the county has a request for public information form and they also talk it over with the county attorney to make sure the county isn’t doing anything illegal.