By Anne Lowe

PUBLIC INFORMATION – A request for information on the salaries and benefits of Blythe city employees has gone without disclosure for more than a month, the Palo Verde Valley Times reports.

According to the article, a Public Records Act request was made to City Manager Dave Lane through Assistant Mallory Sutterfield on August 17. The city initially responded by saying the request was forwarded to the finance department. In a follow-up e-mail on Sept. 7, in which the Times reminded Sutterfield that the city had 10 days to respond, Sutterfield said the city had responded within 10 days but is allowed more time to compile the documents.

"I do not know what the delay is but I think it has something to do with how the numbers are broken out in payroll," Sutterfield said in an e-mail. "I know that in the budget salaries and benefits are separated out so it may be that the Finance Director has to go in and total them all up so that they will be 'weighted', the term for salaries + benefits. The Finance Director is also on vacation so I cannot ask her for the status on this request. I have forwarded her a reminder email for when she returns."??

The California Public Records Act only allows extensions for "unusual circumstances," and then for only 14 days. ??The law also states that the agency shall offer an estimated date and time when the records will be made available.

??"Unusual circumstances" are described in the Act as:

  1. The need to search for and collect the requested records from field facilities or other establishments that are separate from the office processing the request.??
  2. The need to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records that are demanded in a single request.??
  3. The need for consultation, which shall be conducted with all practicable speed, with another agency having substantial interest in the determination of the request or among two or more components of the agency having substantial subject matter interest therein.??
  4. The need to compile data, to write programming language or a computer program, or to construct a computer report to extract data.??

"Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to permit an agency to delay or obstruct the inspection or copying of public records. The notification of denial of any request for records required by Section 6255 shall set forth the names and titles or positions of each person responsible for the denial."

The information requested is considered public record and in fact, many California cities have posted their employee benefits and salaries online.