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Burbank paper sues for details on bonuses paid to hundreds of city workers

January 28, 2011 |  6:58 pm

The Burbank Leader newspaper has filed suit against the city of Burbank, seeking detailed information on millions of dollars in merit-based bonuses paid to city workers over the last three years.

The suit says the city has refused to provide the requested information.

The newspaper, a sister publication of the Los Angeles Times, said city officials initially provided a lump sum for 2009-10, broken down by employee or bargaining groups. The bonuses came to $1 million.

Out of about 1,500 Burbank city employees, 445 workers received bonuses, according to the overview provided by the city. So far this year, $228,449 in bonuses have been paid out, according to the city.

Repeated requests for more detailed information such as names, titles and bonus amounts distributed to Burbank employees were denied, prompting the lawsuit, the newspaper said.

Burbank officials have argued that releasing the bonus pay information would violate employee privacy provisions.

But Karlene W. Goller, an attorney for the Los Angeles Times, and Karl Olson of the San Francisco-based law firm Ram & Olson argued in Los Angeles County Superior Court filings that legal precedent comes down on the side the newspaper.

"I think the bonus structure that Burbank has is very unusual in its generosity and very unusual in its secrecy," Olson said.

-- Gretchen Meier