California State Controller Request for Employee Salary and Benefit Information

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February 10, 2014 Over the past week, the California State Controller sent letters to every County Office of Education, school district and charter school throughout the state requesting salary and benefit information for every school employee.

According to the letter, the request is part of an expansion to an existing state public compensation website - publicpay.ca.gov - which currently includes salary and benefit information for public employees employed by the state, counties, cities, special districts, and state colleges and universities. The website is designed to increase government transparency and accountability for the citizens of California.

We have been contacted by several members concerning the letters and the request for information. It should be noted that California courts have held that the salary and benefit information for the employees of a public agency is considered a public record and must be made available under the California Public Records Act (CPRA). In addition, the tax returns (Form 990) of Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporations require disclosure of the compensation for officers, directors, trustees and key employees of the organization, and are available upon request by the public.

Most charter schools comply with the CPRA as a result of provisions in their charter petitions, memoranda of understanding (MOU) or school policies with authorizers. CCSA has consistently recommended that charter schools comply with the CPRA. While the State Controller's demand for information is not clearly a public records request, the salary and benefits information would likely be subject to such a request.

CCSA, therefore, encourages our charter school members to respond to the State Controller's request in a timely manner. As always, if charter schools have specific concerns or questions about how best to respond to the State Controller's request based on their specific governance structure and operations, we suggest that they consult their attorneys for advice.