The public has a right to know.
That is the bottom line. When a public employee asks why we have published his or her salary, it all comes down to transparency.
Public employee salaries are public record. The salaries are paid by taxpayers, and those taxpayers have a right to know what they are paying for specific jobs.
That is why we are reporting on public salaries today through Tuesday. Today, we're focusing on Washington County Public Schools salaries. The school system is the largest public entity in the county, with more than 3,000 employees.
Washington County government salaries will be the focus in Monday's edition, and wages for employees of the city of Hagerstown will be examined on Tuesday.
We are publishing the salaries of $70,000 or more in the newspaper and have posted full lists at Herald-Mail.com, where there are no space constraints.
The online database, published lists and stories provide the public with basic information and the context in which to consider the salaries.
With the national focus on public salaries, Washington County taxpayers can make up their own minds about whether local public employee pay is appropriate for a specific job.
According to Staff Writer Julie Greene's story on page A1 today: "Of the 1,686 teachers in Washington County Public Schools, the lowest salary was $17,862 for a part-time dance teacher at South Hagerstown High School. The highest salary was $86,884 for a speech therapist at Marshall Street School, which serves special education students."
Are those salary ranges appropriate? Is that where they need to be to recruit good teachers?
Armed with the data and proper context, readers can make up their own minds.
I've already been asked why we need to include the names of the employees along with their salaries. We are only reporting what is public record; we cannot cloud that report by obfuscating information. Half-truths are no way to be transparent, so the names are included.
I've been told that this is an invasion of privacy. But employees should be fully aware that when they enter public service, their salaries are not private information.
There should be nothing to hide and nothing of which to be ashamed.
One public employee suggested that we will make identity theft easier by publishing this information. The information we are providing is not enough for anyone's identity to be stolen. An identity thief can find more in the average social media account.
Providing this public information is a basic function of this newspaper, and we will do it again in the next fiscal year.
Jake Womer is executive editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reaching by calling 301-791-7594 or sending an e-mail to email@example.com.