News Story

NMU Wants $4,600 to Look Up and Send Salary Data

It's online at U of M; in new state budget, Northern Michigan University gets $47,998,400

Northern Michigan University says it would cost $4,606 and take up to 137 hours of staff time to assemble and provide the names and salaries of its employees.

That is the amount the state university gave in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Michigan Capitol Confidential seeking job title and salary information for individual employees. The estimate of $4,606 assumes the search would be performed by a $70,000-a-year employee and take a little more than 137 hours to complete.

Northern Michigan does publish salary amounts for each job title but does not include employee names.

Many Michigan schools and municipalities, including the University of Michigan, post the salaries of their employees online. Others appear to maintain easily accessible record systems that contain the information and also provide it at no charge in response to open records requests.

Michigan Capitol Confidential has been filing such requests for salary information of employees at all levels of state and local government. Information obtained from the requests has been published in an ongoing series that challenges assertions made by national media outlets that public sector employees in this state and elsewhere are suffering financially.

On June 28 Gov. Rick Snyder signed a state education budget that grants NMU $47,998,400 for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, 2018.

Adam Andrzejewski is CEO of OpenTheBooks.com, a non-profit that uses the open records law to collect salary information of public sector employees all across the country. He said that charging high fees, such as what Northern Michigan University is attempting to do, is a barrier to the average citizen's right to collect public data.

"Reviewing government spending is only available for wealthy citizens?" Andrzejewski said in an email. "Charging these fees - transparency taxes - is a direct assault on the First Amendment. Without government spending data and information, the citizen’s ability to review basic government operations is severely limited."