Open Book

A councilman proposes publishing a register of every payment the city makes.



City Councilman Jon Baliles has introduced legislation that would require city administrators to publish the city’s check register online. It would offer an open accounting of whom the city pays and why.

“It’s definitely a win for transparency,” Baliles says.

The School Board recently implemented a similar measure. Administrators update a searchable database of expenditures twice a week. A recent search of the database reveals the schools’ music departments spent $187 on Christmas music from a sheet music supplier this month, and another $47 for “happy music.”

The database also lets the public delve into reimbursements for specific employees, showing, for example, that Superintendent Dana T. Bedden was reimbursed $2,000 in moving expenses, and that shortly after his hiring, the district paid $2,000 for him to fly to China to attend an education summit.

“Governments that take a proactive lead in disclosing payment-register information hold themselves accountable to constituents,” says a memo attached to Baliles’ proposed ordinance.

The proposal would exclude payroll and personnel payments, but include reimbursements for travel and the like.

Council staff members say implementing the ordinance should cost the city nothing. The measure is schedule for a public hearing at council’s Jan. 12 meeting.

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