HARRISBURG -- State House Speaker Dennis O'Brien is vowing to make the salaries of all 1,600 House employees public within two weeks, saying he wants "to make the House more transparent and open."
He instructed the House chief clerk to make the salary information available, at least in printed form, by Feb. 16, and next year it will be available by Feb. 1.
Bill Patton, an aide to the speaker, said the salary information will be available in printed form, but officials haven't decided yet if the names and numbers also will be available online, so they can be obtained by anyone with access to the Internet.
Mr. O'Brien said "information of a confidential nature" about House employees, such as Social Security numbers or addresses, won't be released.
Mr. Patton said the salaries of House employees have always -- at least in theory -- been considered public information, but he conceded that the procedures for reporters and the public to gain access to them has been "difficult and arduous."
Written requests had to be hand-carried or mailed to the House clerk's office, asking for salary information of no more than 15 people at a time. Then it took a couple weeks or so for the information to be produced. Then the process had to be repeated if information on another 15 was needed. That process would have required months to get information on all 1,600 House employees.
Mr. Patton said he wasn't sure exactly how that cumbersome process got started but said he thinks it dates back in the early 1970s.
"Salary information of House employees has always been public information but it now will be easier to access," he said.
Barry Kauffman, director of Common Cause/Pennsylvania, said the new policy "is an improvement, certainly," over past practice.
"Ultimately, all this salary information should be covered by the state's open records law, so it doesn't depend on a policy of one speaker," which could be changed by a future speaker, Mr. Kauffman said.
Even better, he said, such information should be available online. "Citizens should have access to such information in a timely and relatively easy manner. After all, it's public information."
Senate leaders said that since 1981, they have made employees' salary information available each legislative session. The information is updated each month. The current 58-page list of names for 2007-08 is available in printed form upon request to Chief Clerk Russell Faber, at a cost of $20.30.
Five Senate employees who earned more than $100,000 are on the staff of Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi. R-Delaware. They are: Donna Malpezzi, $142,035; Kathleen Eakin, $113,668; Erik Arneson, $101,250; Cynthia Thurston, $100,750 and Carolyn Maravic, $100,715.
Sen. Vincent Fumo, D-Philadelphia, minority chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has four employees who make more than $100,000. Mr. Fumo, who expects to be indicted on federal charges of misusing a charity for his own benefit, announced yesterday he would resign from his leadership post and give up the extra staff that goes with it.
His staffers who earned more than $100,000 were: Christopher Craig, $153,657; Randolph Albright, $139,336; Charles Hoffman, $117,829; and Rosanne Pauciello, $113,518.
Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, and Senate Minority Leader Bob Mellow, D-Lackawanna, each have three employees who earn more than $100,000.
Mr. Scarnati's employees are: Todd Nyquist, $102, 500; Brenda Weikert, $101,971; and Drew Crompton, $101,523.
Mr. Mellow's employees are: Claude Hafner, $141,247; Hugh Baird, $117,000; and Gladys Brown, $104,411.
Some of those aides also received bonuses in 2005 and 2006. The two-year bonus totals were: Ms. Malpezzi, $33,427; Mr. Crompton, $30,767; Mr. Arneson, $22,480; Mr. Baird and Mr. Hafner, $8,000 each; Ms. Brown, $6,000; and Ms. Eakin, $4,200.
Other Senate employees who earn more than $100,000 are: Senate GOP counsel Steve MacNett, $150,021; David Atkinson, an aide to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Gibson, R-Lancaster, $134,016; Mr. Faber and Senate Chief of Staff Mark Corigan, $132,999; Fred Sembach, aide to Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, $114, 231; and Tom Starke, another aide to Mr. Armstrong, $101,206.
Receiving bonuses in 2005 and 2006 were: Mr. Atkinson, $36,278; Mr. Faber and Corrigan, $35,126 each; and Mr. MacNett, $32,801.
Bureau Chief Tom Barnes can be reached at email@example.com or 717-787-4254.