Raleigh should release comp time records

February 13, 2014 

You’d need an electron microscope to see the hairs that Raleigh city officials are splitting to justify denying public access to records that clearly are the public’s business. It’s a big mistake and one these officials should have avoided after a recent embarrassment at the Raleigh Housing Authority.

After the RHA rightly released records showing how agency director Steve Beam was using accumulated compensatory time to devote himself to a serious hobby of magic, the agency board altered the policy. Beam’s ability to build up comp time, as it’s called, was curbed. He’s a good director, and the issue was easily addressed.

But now Raleigh officials say that they won’t release data showing how much time off city employees are taking, claiming the information isn’t public record. That’s preposterous. These are public employees, and compensatory time is part of their compensation, something their employers, the residents of Raleigh, are entitled to know.

Officials will give information about how much sick leave, comp time and vacation specific employees have earned, but not whether they’ve used it or been repaid for it. If an employee were accumulating time and devoting himself or herself to a second sort of career, that would be worthy of question.

But officials say there’s a difference in records showing how much time employees are taking and how much time they have accumulated. The latter is public and the former is not, they say.

The state’s public records and personnel laws, changed in 2010, make it clear that historical salary data (in other words, the history of someone’s compensation throughout an agency career) are public. Certainly comp time and other time off would be something that’s part of employment history.

City officials need to quit seeking legal opinions to justify their bad decisions and simply release the data.

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