Subscriber Special: California, a Transparency Battleground State Art8

May 5, 2015 01:30 PM
In the electronic, big data age, the "Golden State" excuses to keep public expenditures private are laughable.
Our Battle to End California's Transparency Drought
By Adam Andrzejewski | Forbes Editorial, May 2015
For over two years, we've asked California's chief financial officer for "any" and "all" line-by-line state vendor payments. But, two Comptrollers - John Chiang and currently Betty Yee, told us: stop asking because the records aren't accessible.  
Really?  That's not just a lame excuse; it's a violation of the law. Any controller that can make payments has the ability to track payments.  
The CA Controller is not only in charge of paying the bills, but also all state accounting, bookkeeping, payroll, and auditing of all state operations - including financial and compliance audits and attestations.  They are dutifully charged with tracking for "every dollar spent by the state."
There is no dispute that the CA Controller pays millions of bills annually. Their website admits the vast scope of activity: 
  • 46 million payments annually, 24 million through warrants (state equivalent of checks) and 22 million via electronic fund transfers (EFT).
But, earlier this month General Counsel Rick Chivaro told us: "... Consequently, because of the way the claims are batched and processed by this office, we are unable to locate or otherwise provide you with the documents requested." What?
California isn't the only state that has played games with open records laws.  
In 2012, Illinois Republican Comptroller Judy Baar-Topinka tried to block our Freedom of Information Act request for the state spending record saying sarcastically, "the state doesn't have a 'magical checkbook'."  
Guess what?  We sued and forced production. 
While California residents and taxpayers can view 4.63 million federal, state, and local salary and pension records, the California checkbook remains hidden.  Visit
  • Top 14,647 "highly compensated" public employees cost taxpayers nearly $5 billion per year in payroll, benefits and pension. 
It's long past time to end California's transparency drought. It's time for the California Controller to "Open the Books."
Join the Transparency Revolution!
Matthew Tyrmand, Deputy Director
Adam Andrzejewski, Chairman
P.S. Your help is needed today. Please help us post "every dime online in real time" across America.  Please make a tax deductible gift of $25, $50, $100, $250 or $500 today.
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