GIS boss told to reveal salary

| 31/07/2009

(CNS): In her first formal decision over a Freedom of Information request refusal the new Information Commissioner, Jennifer Dilbert, has ruled that the Chief information Officer at Government Information Services, (GIS), Angela Piercy, must reveal her salary and provide a narrower salary range of staff in the department. Dilbert’s order comes in the wake of an appeal by a Caymanian Compass journalist after his request for the precise earnings of staff in the government’s communication office was turned down.  

Dilbert said that the original FOI application had asked for the exact salaries of all GIS employees but the department had only supplied names, titles and general salary bands associated with each job. Refusing to give the exact details of individual earnings, GIS had said it was an “unreasonable disclosure of personal information". Brent Fuller, the Compass journalist who had submitted the FOI request, appealed against the refusal, which lead to Dilbert’s first written decision under the FOI Law 2007.

In her ruling Dilbert states that, while exact salaries of individuals at GIS would be unreasonable, she determined that the disclosure of the CIO’s earnings was not. “In their respective roles as agenda setters as well as implementers of political will, senior managers wield significant influence over the direction of government. Common sense and the FOI law strongly suggest that the higher and more influential the post the greater the need for transparency.”

Although Dilbert chose to order GIS to reveal narrower salary bands for all other posts to the Compass, she drew the line at exact salary disclosure as she stated it was personal information. She did however reject the argument made by GIS that releasing individual salaries would create a decline in morale.

In its submission GIS had made a number of arguments for not giving up salary details into the public domain, and one was that by undermining employee morale productivity would be affected and therefore the public affairs of government would be interfered with. Under the FOI law requests can be refused if it can be justified that the affairs of government could be negatively impacted.

“There is a real danger that releasing the exact salaries will result in deterioration in employee/employee as well as employee/employer relationships,” GIS wrote. “This deterioration would lead to a more stress filled work environment loss in motivation and morale and eventual loss in output.”

The Civil Service Association also submitted its position to the hearing that revealing exact salaries would allow civil servants to compare with each other, which could lead to “unnecessary unsettlement and disappointment", and see people wanting to re-negotiate their salaries. The association suggested that if individual salary revelations became the norm the entire civil service would be undermined because of negative incentive.

The Compass had submitted, however, that the argument not to disclose because “people will be upset” was not a high enough standard and raised concerns that if it was allowed it would be detrimental to FOI as a whole. 

“If this argument is allowed to stand in this case, section 20 (1) (d) can then be used to deny almost any FOI request one might think of because it could ‘prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs’ by which government means people will be too angry or jealous to do their jobs,” the Compass submitted.  “Many people within government have been upset and angry that information regarding certain matters has been given to the media under FOI. We imagine this will continue as the FOI process moves along until individuals finally accept that this instrument of openness and transparency is here to stay.”

Dilbert chose to dismiss the GIS argument and said that in her observations elsewhere of salary revelation under FOI there had been no calamitous drop in morale and she said this was not a reason not to disclose. She noted that, in actual fact, managers explaining why one civil servant is paid more than another for doing the same job would be a positive step towards greater managerial transparency and accountability.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    To the poster at 12:11…

    "That she is personally being maligned in these strings of emails makes me think that the letter-writiers are public servants who abhor transparency and do not agree that those who pay their salaries have the right to know what they are being paid"

    I believe she is "personally being maligned" because she is making far more money than her position entails in the middle of a financial fiasco in government spending. It’s great she posted her salary, so that the public could review and criticise the amount she is making relative to her job. Take a closer look at the comments.Those posts commenting about Ms. Dilbert personally are almost entirely in relation to the salary she is making. Those that criticise the decision do so on some notion of rights to privacy or such. There are two different conversations taking place here, please don’t try and entangle them because it diminishes the level and quality of public discussion.

    • Anonymous says:

      To the poster at 13:27

      You are dead right. It has nothing to do withfear of transparency. The people posting about Mrs Dilbert are angry that she is being paid far far more than the job is worth or was advertised for just because she demanded to come home from London. If she really wanted the job for its intrinsic worth, she should have accepted the salary assigned it by the Hay evaluation method used in the civil service. As it is, she got a deal cut for her. Shouldn’t have happened but some of our Caymanians are charmed in this life.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Mrs. Dilbert has issued a very progressive and necessary decision to promote greater accountability.  That she is personally being maligned in these strings of emails makes me think that the letter-writiers are public servants who abhor transparency and do not agree that those who pay their salaries have the right to know what they are being paid.  Mrs. Dilbert believes that, and posted her salary on the web.  I

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think it is interesting that Mrs Angela Piercy, the Chief Information Officer of what is esentially the government public relations department has publicly suggested that she might take the matter to judicial review to avoid having to disclose her salary.  And yet, her boss has seen fit to disclose his salary, and is obviously taking a different stance and direction than his own public relations department.  I wonder if Mrs. Piercy has consulted with Mr. Bush on whether the govenrment is going to put up their own legal resources to fight what the Cayman people are entitled to know?

    • Anonymous says:

      I think it is interesting that Mrs Angela Piercy, the Chief Information Officer of what is esentially the government public relations department has publicly suggested that she might take the matter to judicial review to avoid having to disclose her salary.  And yet, her boss has seen fit to disclose his salary, and is obviously taking a different stance and direction than his own public relations department.

      Are you siggesting that a politician is now the boss of a civil servant? D9o you know who is head of the civil service?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Middle management is exactly that–middle of the road. This overworked GIS Acting Chief Information Officer is not setting government policy, nor pulling down a huge salary either. As an acting officer, she’s not even formally in a scale for heaven’s sake!

    But she surely is entitled to the same privacy as any of her staff; not to mention that if she discloses exact details of her salary, she’ll be setting a precedent for ALL HODs in her so-called scale and above.

    Salary bands are established by government and some individuals negotiate within these bands when they are employed. Since this fact is as widely known as the existance of the bands themselves, what, one wonders, is Brent Fuller’s real agenda? Maybe Brent is considering applying to GIS himself, and feels he needs needs more detailed information for a bargaining base…Come on people! Narrowing salary scales to within $10,000 of what GIS staff members actually receive can hardly be deemed meaningful to the public.

    And what about the law? Is the FOI Law destined to become a multi-headed Hydra, capable of bringing its ‘keepers’ to their knees?

    Mrs. Dilbert –and others–might want to reflect on these points.

  5. Anonymous says:

    here here, couldn’t have said it better myself

  6. Anonymous says:

    If I recall correctly, when the advertisement went out for the position of Information Commissioner, it was listed as being on the E scale. Ms. Dilbert’s posting of her salary shows she is being paid a C point 2, which is almost $10,000 a year more than the highest salary she could possibly have on the E scale. This is the problem with the "personal to holder" policy – she’s brought her lush London Office salary with her (and don’t get me started on how absurd it is that the London Office is being paid so much). People should be paid for what the position is worth… Personal to holder needs to be dropped – how much money is being wasted over-paying civil servants who move to lower positions but keep higher salaries? Call your elected MLAs and demand they change this policy and call for a re-evaluation of contracts and salaries for civil servants being paid on the personal to holder basis today! This step alone would save millions of dollars each year. And while the role of Information Commissioner is indeed important in improving government transparency and accountability, it is certainly not on par or greater than that of MLAs.  For that matter, neither is the head of the London Office. Ms. Dilbert is representative of the immoral salary policies for senior civil servants that is draining our economy as we speak!

    • Anonymous says:

      To "If I recall correctly", posted at 12:51 Sunday — Amen!  I totally agree. 

      I think that that translates into a cost-cutting measure for government — go through the civil service and identify all ‘Personal to Holder" cases and return those people to the scale in which the job is graded.  If salaries are going to be cute, they should be the first on the list.

      And here’s another cost-cutting measure — identify those persons who are at mandatory retirment age (60) and beyond.  They should be given a suitable term of notice (three months or less) or some such appropriate action to move them out.  They are more costly than younger workers and we want to be sure that we can continue to pay younger workers whose families are dependent on them.




    • Anonymous says:

      And what was the renumeration for Ms. Dilbert’s services in London….including all the "perks" I wonder??


  7. Anonymous says:

    "This ruling seems to contravene the Confidential Relationships Preservation Law."  Why?

  8. Anonymous says:

    This translates into CI$10,876.00 per month plus full health and pension benefits. Recognize people that this is more than what 65% of the elected members of Parliament receive on a monthly basis and is even higher than what Kurt Tibbetts, the leader of the opposition receives.

    Now, here we have a group of people who are suppose to carry the weight of running the entire country on their shoulders playing second fiddle (at least by way of salary) to a person who is there to referee questions on whether a question should be answered or not.

    This is the kind of stupidity that we should cry out about, offices like the information commissioner and the complaints commissioner stand to cost the Government almost a million dollars each per annum, and for what, so the tax payers can pay the Government to police itself? this is crazy, absolutely crazy.


  9. Anonymous says:

    To answer ‘I may have missed…’ Mrs Dilbert’s salary is posted on the Info Comm’s web site in her appointment letter – right there for you to download.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Makam, ahhh hah, now the plot thickens, one would be quite surprised and may i even venture, quite disgusted if the salary of the information commissioner was revealed.

    People talk about what members of the LA get, do an FOI request for what Ms. Dilbert makes and people will be whistling a different tune.

  11. Anonymous says:

    In reading the decision posted by Ms. Dilbert on the ICO website, I think it would be very appropriate for her to publish her own exact salary (and that of any "senior" members of her staff) in a proactive measure to encourage greater transparency in government.

    In fact, all civil servants in senior management positions should proactively disclose their exact salaries (and benefits) so the public can truly evaluate their pay-to-performance ratio. Seeing as there is currently a massive budgetary issue at hand, what better time to give the public the information they need to ascertain if certain members of the civil service are worth the millions being poured into their collective salaries annually.

    Lead the way Ms. Dilbert! Don’t just talk the talk with this decision. Be proactive and release the full salary information for you and the higher positions in your staff! Set an example for others to follow so we can really put more faith in the purpose of shifting attitudes and culture toward greater transparency and accountability in government!

  12. Makam says:

    I may have missed it’s publication, but what is Ms. Dilbert’s salary??

  13. Anonymous says:

    This ruling seems to contravene the Confidential Relationships Preservation Law. 

  14. Anonymous says:

    Someone should make FOI requests to all government entities asking for the exact salaries of their COs and the like, as well as "narrow" salary bands for everyone else. It would be interesting to see who is being paid more than they deserve and where the real wastes of government spending benefit the few…

  15. Jedi Dread says:

     Well, well, well…

    A paradigm shift falls upon the Cayman Islands. There is hope for us yet.


    – Jedi Dread –

    PS. Think of a Paradigm Shift as a change from one way of thinking, to another.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Does this mean every civil servant at that level and above are now required to reveal their exact salaries?

  17. Anonymous says:

    How does it benefit the public to know how much of a salary any specific civil servant earns? This whole thing is mischievous and intrusive and does not provide meanful data for anything other than less than worthy news and absolute propaganda. Salary bands yes but not private and confidential matters, that should be held to a degree of secrecy. This is not a job that like an Member of Parliament that is engaged effectively by the public.

  18. Anonymous says:

    This decision seems very well reasoned.

    Hopefully when the request for information relating to the complex web of payments being made in relation to "consulting contracts" awarded to political cronies is considered, the same level of transparency will be available.

  19. Anonymous says:

    what they need to look at is the National Gallerys/National Trust salarys.

  20. Ching Ching says:

    ooohh. Does this mean we can have all the other Heads of Department as well? Seems like it. You in Brent or has your gripe been satisfied?

  21. Twyla M Vargas says:


    Finally someone is getting the ball rolling in the right direction.   "Excellent, Mrs Dilbert" Whereby, this situation is being questioned, I would say, "Smoke is somewhere in the kitchen"   If a Government employee has nothing to hide, why worry,  Give it up, and I do not see where employee morale will be undermined of have an affect on their productivity.

    If an employee is honest about giving an honest days work for an honest days pay there should be no fear, and if I am doing the same work as you why shouldI not get the same pay.  In fact all of the doubling tatics, cannot work, someone has to be eliminated.   Three people holding one hammer or three people holding one saw.  I agree there is too much doubling going on in the service in areas where is not needed.   Triping up over each other.    To suggest that there would be a loss of output is amaizing.  That means there was no good genuine intention from the begining.

    Didn,t the MLA,s and Ministers reveal theirs?  Mrs Dilbert I applaud you for your step taken, and I am sure you will look after the interest of Caymanians who are doing their best to make this work.  A positive step towards transparency and accountability.


  22. Anonymous says:

    Bravo Commissioner Dilbert!   The Cayman government is behind the times, and the public have the right to know how much government workers are paid!!  Especially in these troubled financial times.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think that full disclosure does tend to cause appointing officers to be more careful in how they assess placement of officers on a scale.  From that point of view, I think disclosure of actual salary is a good thing.

      However, I think the we may need to find some type of medium that will also allow civil servants some level of personal privacy, which everyone in the private sector treats as sacrosanct.

      For example, I know the confidentiality with which salaries are treated at the Compass — and the reason is that bosses over there don’t want to have unnecessary bickering and in-fighting about salaries.

      If we in the public wanted to know how much the editor of the Compass was being paid, we would not get that information.

      True, Compass is private sector, run with private funding.  However, the fundamental reason for withholding at the Compass would be the same as for the public sector:   the level of disconfort in the work place associated with such specificity of disclosure. 

      And I think if we consider how we would feel, we can understand the feelings of people in middle management in the public service.

      It will be interesting to see how this pans out — if the ruling is appealed to the next level rather than complied with,  it could end up as a storm in a tea cup, and could actually end up the same way, drawing even mroe attention to it, and speculation as to why its witholding is so imperative.

      So I don’t think this is an easy issue: balancing transparency against personal privacy and workplace harmony. 

      I think a lot of people will be watching to see how it turns out in the final analysis.




  23. Anonymous says:

    Good job! There’s hope for FOI yet.