Names and salary

Sen. Steve Martin of Chesterfield has introduced SB 812, which would prohibit the disclosure of a public employee's name when releasing information related to that employee's salary or reimbursements.

Here's what the bill says:


2.2-3705.8. Limitation on record exclusions.

A. Neither any provision of this chapter nor any provision of Chapter 38 (§ 2.2-3800 et seq.) of this title shall be construed as denying public access to (i) contracts between a public body and its officers or employees, other than contracts settling public employee employment disputes held confidential as personnel records under § 2.2-3705.1; (ii) records of the job position, job classification,official salary or rate of pay of, and records of the allowances or reimbursements for expenses paid to any officer, official or employee of a public body, except that the name of any such officer, official or employee shall not be disclosed; or (iii) the compensation or benefits paid by any corporation organized by the Virginia Retirement System or its officers or employees.

I don't think the senator would argue that the public doesn't have a right to information about the salary and reimbursements paid to a specific individual by name (e.g., Gov. McDonnell, Frank Beamer, the mayor of Richmond, or the local sheriff).

I'm sure this is aimed, instead, at protecting the everyday worker who dutifully puts in his/her time and service and doesn't expect to be "outed" by the local newspaper publishing his/her salary.

Even so, the prohibition on naming names is ultimately unworkable. Practically, there's no difference between going into the Virginia Tech athletic office and asking for Frank Beamer's salary and reimbursements, and in going into the local parks and recreation department and asking for the salary and reimbursement records on Mary Smith, the front desk clerk you know from church.

The salary information for both would have to be released.

There are several other things to think about with this bill; I'll offer just two right now.

  • The public availability of public employee salary data is in the interest of both the public AND the employees. The public has a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent, and employees have the right to verify that they are being paid fairly compared with others in their department.
  • Bell, California


Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Here's an editorial from the Roanoke Times on the subject.


This is going to do nothing but create chaos. In situations where there is only one person in a position, the name isn't needed to identify the person. As noted above, any request for information requires that the name of the person be known in order to ask for it. When taxpayer money is being used, taxpayers should have unobstructed access to this information.
Why waste taxpayer money on a bill that is not really going to accomplish anything.

Here's what former newspaper publisher Lou Emerson has to say about the bill (this is the same comment Lou published on the Times-Dispatch site in response to a front-page story about the bill:

The case of former Del. Phillip A. Hamilton (R-Newport News) serves as Exhibit A for maintaining transparency when it comes to public employees' salaries.

Hamilton allegedly sought to keep his name off all documents related the ODU job he helped get state funding . . . and which he ultimately held.

Let's not make it easier for those with bad intent to game the system.

There are examples across the state in sheriff's offices, in Franklin County for example, where family members without proper qualifications have gone on the payroll.

Transparency is the great inoculation. Don't mess with it.

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