Colorado’s salaries for elected officials are supposed to be public records, but the information is extremely difficult to find. A list of all the elected officials and their pay is not located in one place, and this road block appears intentional. And even if a citizen were to try and track it down office-by-office, it is a tedious quest, and would require hours of web searches and hundreds of phone calls.
In fact, I still haven’t found out, despite spending about six hours on the project. I started out with all the usual Google searches – “colorado government salaries, colorado elected official salaries, colo. elected office pay, compensation, etc, etc.” I tried to search for specific offices, such as District Attorneys, and couldn’t find anything–not one DA’s salary listed online. I looked at the Colorado government website, http://www.colorado.gov. Nothing. One thing this research made clear, Colorado’s Democrats, who control all three branches of government, apparently never received that 2009 memo about transparency and accountability. And individual, Republican-run agencies aren’t any help either.
I got all excited when I found this on Google: “Colorado State Employee Compensation Data Base-Denver Post.” Eureka, I’d found what I was looking for and so much more. So I clicked on the article and here’s what I found (and what you’ll find if you click):
We have no current plans to update the Colorado State Employee Database.If you have any questions about that, here’s our contact page
I thought, fine, 2008 would be ok for a start. At this point updating seemed greedy. So I clicked some more, and found not only did the Denver Post not update its original piece, it withdrew its original piece after pressure from government employees who think the people who pay their salaries shouldn’t know how much we’re paying them. This ensuing Denver Post piece from 2008 describes the pressure received from government employees to delete the database, and all searches I did show that the employee salary database has indeed been deleted.
Ok, so no easy way out for me in what was turning out to be the cyberspace version of a picaresque (or Quixotic) adventure. I went back to the dreaded http://www.colorado.gov site, where had I the burning need to pay sales taxes online, the site was quite forthcoming and placed this revenue collecting task right at the top of the page. So I clicked on “Government” and then on “Elected Officials.” Zilch.
I got more creative. I clicked on “Government” again, but this time sub-clicked on “State Agencies.” There I found a huge menu, and thought I’d hit the jackpot when I found “Personnel and Administration, department of.” I called that number, pressed “5” for media help, and asked “Julie” my question. Suffice it to say, Julie wasn’t particularly helpful. She just said “it’s in the statutes.” I called back to find out which statutes, as the Colo. Revised Statutes are kind of hard to navigate, even for someone with a legal background like me. But when I called back, the reception was bad, and Julie hung up.
Next I tried the Colorado Secretary of State. After all, I knew they dealt with elections and figured maybe they knew what each elected official got paid by the taxpayers. A very nice employee named Cesi Gomez tried hard to help and spoke with higher ups, who eventually told her to tell me about the statutes and the Constitution. Still, I wondered why there wasn’t an easily accessible place for all of this. But at least she referred me to specific statutes. Unfortunately, those statutes didn’t contain what I was looking for, they spoke only to the process under which salaries needed to be approved, but gave no salaries. Ditto for the Constitution, although I did not read the Constitution in its entirety.
So I went back a third time to colorado.gov and found the number to the webmaster, who thankfully was not a government employee, simply the outside, independent webmaster for the site. She confirmed the information I wanted was definitely not on the site, and its omission was not accidental. She referred me to another agency that will go nameless for now. Suffice it to say I am hoping one of my elected representatives will assist in this little, but important project, and that I will have the info in about a week.
The public deserves convenient access to this information, and shouldn’t have to file a gaggle of Colorado Open Records Act requests to get it. It’s 2010 and government really needs to learn that they work for us, and not the other way around. When I obtain this information I will post it here and at Associated Content, where it should be readily located online.
The next step will be to get a conservative legislator to co-sponsor a bill to require this information be provided to the public on the state website, and that all government agencies be required to post their budgets on their websites as well.