Retirement board: Release salary info

Openness about public funds no burden

April 8, 2011 

It's hard to know where to start in a discussion about the Kentucky Retirement Systems' remarkable refusal to release information about staff salaries.

Do you scratch your head about why anyone should have to explain the public's legitimate interest in knowing what people earn who are responsible for $13 billion in public funds?

Or do you wonder how an organization with that kind of fiscal tracking responsibility could reply with a straight face that it can't respond to a request for salaries because it's "unduly burdensome?"

Don't they know how to create a spreadsheet?

Or do you gently explain that if the public can know — as it does — about the salary of virtually every other state government employee, it sure seems like these could, and should, be open, too?

These are all questions that come to mind. But perhaps the most perplexing is, why are at least some members of the board that oversees the system ignorant about the salaries?

"Nobody on the board has any idea what anybody makes over there," Robert Wilcher, a member of the KRS board of trustees, told Herald-Leader reporter John Cheves. "We're never given any numbers."

That gives rise to a real stumper: Why not?

There's no good reason, as Attorney General Jack Conway said Tuesday, for KRS to withhold the salary information from the retiree who requested it, or any other member of the public.

It's amazing, though, that board members haven't long ago pounded fists and demanded the information.

The nine-member board consists of three appointed by the governor, five elected by members of the three government retirement systems it oversees and the secretary of the Personnel Cabinet or designee.

A couple of unfortunate themes run through recent Kentucky history.

One is that secrecy surrounding money does not yield good government or responsible management.

Another is that boards that forget their loyalties are to the organizations they oversee, not the executives who hand-feed them selected information, aren't doing their jobs.

The KRS board and executives should move quickly to release the salary information and address both of these issues.

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