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After three weeks of on-and-off discussion, Charleston County Council is still debating how to follow through on a spending transparency measure that would post some employee salaries on the county's Web site.

All public salaries are a matter of public record, but they aren't always easy to find.

The county plans to mirror the state's policy of posting online the names, positions and salaries of employees earning $50,000 or more. Elected and appointed county officials, however, could choose to not be included in the list, under the County Council plan first recommended March 11.

The council reaffirmed that plan at another committee meeting Thursday after some debate, and will likely ratify that plan Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a more extensive list of county employee salaries, provided by the county, has been on The Post and Courier's Web site since March 13.

The city of Charleston went well beyond the county's plan on March 19 and posted all of its employee salary information on the city Web site, with little fanfare and no debate on City Council.

County Council members made it clear at Thursday's committee meeting that some elected county officials and county employees were upset that the county promptly provided public salary information to The Post and Courier three weeks ago. Several council members, including Chairman Teddie Pryor, suggested that county staff should have delayed releasing that information.

Councilman Paul Thurmond, who initially proposed putting county salaries online, said promptly releasing the information to The Post and Courier, before elected officials could talk to staff about the salary information going online, had caused problems.

At the same time, Thurmond said that if the county is truly open about public spending, people shouldn't have to come and ask for information that is public record.

"We have nothing to hide, and this is taxpayers' money," he said. "The question is whether we get on board or whether The Post and Courier has to submit a FOIA every year," he said, referring to the Freedom of Information Act.

Pryor said that last week he personally directed County Administrator Allen O'Neal to delay the release of salary information not initially provided to The Post and Courier, although the information was readily available.

"I said, don't do it until we have a council meeting," Pryor said.

He said he's heard from county employees who were upset to learn what they earn, relative to co-workers.

"I've heard people say 'Hey, I didn't know that person was making so much, and I do twice as much work'," Pryor said.

Councilman Dickie Schweers said that supervisors should be able to readily explain why employees are paid what they are paid, and any disparities that are uncovered should be reviewed and corrected.

"I hope that is where this is leading us," he said. "In the long run I think this will be very positive."

Councilman Elliott Summey said the situation highlights the need for a county salary study. O'Neal said there could be money designated in the upcoming county budget to pay for one.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or dslade@postandcourier.com.