California’s Supreme Court has two weeks to issue a decision on whether the salaries of city government employees are public record. While 49 other states make public the compensation of city employees, a 2003 ruling by San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Rosemary Pfeiffer shut off access to the salaries of unionized city employees in five cities. The state Court of Appeals upheld her ruling. The decision came in a case that began when the Palo Alto Daily News attempted to get the data so it could print lists of city employees and how much they made. Unions and city officials fought the paper, and won.
In an attempt to reverse that decision, the Contra Costa Times requested the salary data of all Oakland city workers who made over $100,000. When Oakland refused, the Times sued and won at trial and on appeal. That case is now before the state Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments on May 30 and has 90 days from that date to issue a ruling.