Saint John – The citizens of the Port City will soon have open access to a “sunshine list” showing the pay ranges, as well as the specific ways in which salaries are spent, of all city staff earning more than $60,000.
City Council passed Coun. Greg Norton’s motion to create the list in a meeting on Monday night. The list, which will be posted on the city’s webpage as well as most social media platforms, will include city staff who make more than $60,000 annually. It will group them according to pay scale, and according to the value of each of their purchases on a day-to-day basis. Saint John’s citizens will be able to see detailed bank statements for each staff member showing everything they spent their money on, from sandwiches at Subway to their Netflix bills.
Norton said the issue is transparency: “I think by doing this it sends a message that we’re being more open, more transparent. The citizens of Saint John have a right to know not only how much civil servants are making, but whether they’re spending that money in meaningful ways or just throwing it down the drain at the horse races.”
The City of Saint John will be posting on its Facebook page and tweeting an update every time any staffer in this high income bracket buys anything. The city hasn’t figured out how to track cash purchases, but debit and credit transactions will be available for all to see, and citizens will be able to comment on, “like,” and share each purchase in their own newsfeeds. At the end of each month, citizens will be able to vote on which expenditures were the best, worst, most frivolous, most wasteful, etc. And, each month, one employee will be “Ex-Ported” –banished from Saint John forever — in a sort of Survivor-like incentive to track their own spending.
Coun. Sharon Fillmore has questioned how detailed the list needs to be. “Norton thinks every yokel in this city should have input just because their tax dollars are paying these employees’ salaries, but seriously, can you imagine? I don’t want every Tom, Dick and Harry knowing I spent $60 on a wine kit and deeming it unnecessary. It’s like having an older brother read your diary or your parents go through your closet,” she said. “Some of this just seems like self-indulgent voyeurism.”
The Manatee will inform readers when this list is available online.