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State lawmakers seek more ways to avert another Bell scandal

October 28, 2010 |  4:35 pm

The Bell salary scandal continues to spur proposals to shed more light on government compensation.

The state’s ethics watchdog agency on Thursday proposed that government officials be given the option of disclosing how much they are paid by the taxpayers in annual reports on their economic interests. The California Fair Political Practices Commission will hold a hearing on the proposal next month before deciding in December whether to adopt the plan.

The announcement comes just days after the state controller launched a website that lists the salaries, pension and health benefits paid to city and county workers in California. The proposed FPPC form would also include state officials and would provide more details, additionally providing disclosure of how much the reporting official received in stipends, bonuses, car allowances, loans for mortgages and cashed-out sick leave.

”What we’ve learned through coverage of the Bell scandal is there are many other ways for officials, whether elected or appointed, to unduly benefit at the taxpayers’ expense,’’ said Dan Schnur, the commission’s chairman.

State law requires elected officials and government managers to annually disclose their economic interests, including investments and real estate holdings, but it exempts government compensation from the reporting. As a result, the new disclosure form can only be provided by the FPPC as an optional document to be filled out by government officials, but Schnur said he will work with the Legislature next year to make the disclosure a requirement.

A bill to change the law and require the annual disclosure of government compensation died in the recent legislative session. The new form would ask that salary and other compensation be disclosed in broad ranges. For instance the filer would check a box indicating whether the gross salary was $10,001 to $100,000, $101,000 to $200,000, etc. The filer would check boxes for stipends indicating whether they were $0 to $2,000, $2,001 to $5,000, etc.

--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento