Data on how much money teachers, administrators and other state and local public employees make has been online for a while. But now that data has been linked to the state treasurer's recently re-designed website. And Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler reports that data is getting a lot of new attention.
Republican state treasurer Josh Mandel says he wants Ohioans to see what kind of salaries state and local public employees are making - from the governor and other elected officeholders to school administrators, teachers, police officers, airport workers, court employees, firefighters and clerical workers.
"In the spirit of transparency and the spirit of empowering taxpayers throughout the state to keep government officials accountable, we've taken data of public salary information and put it on the internet."
The information has actually been on the internet for more than a year - at the Buckeye Institute's website. The conservative think tank put up salary data for people working in state government, higher education and public schools in April 2010. President Matt Mayer says the treasurer's website is an interface with the Buckeye Institute's website, and the partnership - which doesn't involve any money or government contracts came at Mandel's request. And he says anyone is welcome to the information.
"Our view is government should have already been doing this and it shouldn't have taken the Buckeye Institute to compile this and spend the tens of thousands of dollars to put it together that we've done. But what's important is to make sure Ohioans have access to information that allows them to make educated decisions when it comes to their government entities."
Another longtime advocate of transparency in government is Brian Rothenberg with Progress Ohio, a coalition that's the political polar opposite of the Buckeye Institute. Rothenberg says he applauds Mandel's decision to put this data on the treasurer's website, but he has some questions.
"I do think that it's appropriate to look at these salaries - for one thing, I think people are going to find that a lot of public employees don't make nearly as much money or have as many benefits as they think they do. I do wonder sometimes about the timing of doing this before Issue 2."
Of course, that's the ballot issue that would keep or reject Senate Bill 5, the collective bargaining reform law. Progress Ohio opposes Issue 2, while the Buckeye Institute has written extensively about the need for collective bargaining reform. Mandel hasn't officially taken a stand on Senate Bill 5. But Mandel's decision to post this data isn't suspicious - it's hypocritical taxpayer-funded self-promotion, says Justin Barasky of the Ohio Democratic Party.
"Mandel has refused to file his personal financial disclosure for more than 100 days while at the same time debuting a new feature on his website that discloses the salaries of Ohio's public employees. And this is emblematic of Mandel's belief that the rules don't apply to him."
Mandel says he did file a personal financial disclosure report with the state in April, and there is a federal report that will be filed this fall. And Mandel says his own salary is listed in the database on his site.
"Not only is my information accessible there, but there's actually more information about me on the internet than there is about the other probably 99.9% of the public employees in the state. I take pride in transparency, and I take pride in helping to empower citizens to keep government accountable."
Mandel was required to complete the federal report by May 15 or within 30 days of announcing his candidacy for US Senate, as a Republican running against incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown. He filed paperwork for a campaign for Senate in April, and while he hasn't officially declared he's a candidate, he says he's leaning toward it.