Help wanted: An attorney with a thorough understanding of the law, to educate newspaper employees and the public on the difference between "personal income" and "salary."
Washington County Attorney Richard Douglas used both those terms this past Thursday, while refusing a request to reveal how much the county - which gets its funds from taxpayers - shelled out for the retirement package of John Howard, former director of the Economic Development Commission.
Douglas denied The Herald-Mail's June 18 and July 11 requests for that information under a provision of the Maryland Public Information Act which exempts governments from releasing "information about an individual, including assets, income, liabilities, net worth, bank balances, financial history or activities or creditworthiness."
The intent of this provision seems clear. Although governments must disclose how much they're paying their employees, they need not tell the public how much, for example, an employee's credit-card balance is or whether he or she owns more than one vehicle.