As reported by nj.com, in what some advocates of open government call an unprecedented overreach, Attorney General Paula Dow has blocked the public from knowing how much overtime State Police troopers and other state law enforcement officials earn. Dow’s rule, which took effect this month, is part of a larger effort by the Attorney General to make confidential any records that “may reveal or lead to information that may reveal” an officer’s assignment.
The measure applies to the State Police and any other law enforcement officers that work under the Department of Law and Public Safety, but not local police departments, said Leland Moore, a spokesman for Dow. But open government advocates said the move by Dow restricts basic financial information, and that the taxpayers of New Jersey have a right to track public spending, including overtime. “Public employees, including law enforcement, have never liked the public knowing how much they make,” said Ron Miskoff of the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government. “But the public is paying the freight and I don’t see how knowing someone’s overtime is going to put anyone in danger.”
State records show that troopers earned $25.5 million in overtime last year, and as of September they made $15.7 million. Topping the list was Sergeant Robert Galik, assigned to Turnpike duty, who earned $63,221 in overtime last year. He had made $50,685 through the first nine months of this year, the second highest amount among troopers.
The State Treasury currently makes payroll information available for all state employees, including police, through a website created under Governor Chris Christie’s open government initiative. The website, yourmoney.nj.gov, billed as Christie’s “Transparency Center,” is updated every three months and is intended to help “taxpayers better understand public finances” and to “make government more accountable.” Moore said the Trasury will comply with Dow’s new rule and no longer post overtime information for police under the Department of Law and Public Safety.
Under the rules, total overtime figures for the department and its divisions will still be available. Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for Dow, said the rule reflected the long-standing position of the Attorney General’s Office. The Department of Corrections said there is no rule like the one imposed by the Attorney General to block overtime data for correctional officers.
Dow’s rule regarding overtime was enacted as part of several measures to make more records confidential, including those that detail background investigations or evaluations for job applicants and those concerning employee discipline, discharges or promotions. Many of the rules, other than the overtime provision, are similar to restrictions on public records under the state open records act. But Miskoff said they went too far in curtailing public access.