During the 2009-10 fiscal year, Burbank provided $1 million worth of "pay for performance" bonuses to its employees. These purely discretionary payments occurred at a time when the city faced millions in budgetary shortfalls. There is $1.89 million budgeted for bonuses in the current fiscal year.
The position of the city attorney's office has been that the release of this information would show which employees are better than their peers — as they were the ones that received the bonus. As a result, it would also indicate which employees are less than stellar — the poor unfortunates who received only a paycheck from their almost-impossible-to-be-fired-or-laid-off employ.
Releasing the information, the argument goes, would be tantamount to releasing performance evaluations, something that is clearly protected from disclosure. This is a well-thought-out and logical argument. It is also completely incorrect.
A 2007 California Supreme Court decision explicitly rejects this. Chief Justice Ronald George, who penned the opinion, said public employees simply do not have an expectation of privacy when it comes to how much they earn.
"It is difficult to imagine a more critical time for public scrutiny of its governmental decision-making process than when the latter is determining how it shall spend public funds," he wrote in International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21 v. Superior Court.
I suspect the city attorney's office is concerned that if they do release the information, they will face lawsuits from city employees for doing so.