Distrust can be devastating. In personal relationships. In business dealings. In community reputations.

In Anderson, there always seems to be at least a low level of distrust of city government. There are always those, usually affiliated with the political party that’s out of power, who believe that the current city administration is playing politics with jobs.

Sometimes the distrust is misplaced. Sometimes it’s on target.

Sitting Mayor Kris Ockomon and his administration are the current targets of this distrust. Rumors are rampant about new city jobs being created.

Our report on Page 1 today is designed to cut through the innuendo and get at the raw statistical figures that show whether the current administration has expanded or contracted the employee roster and the payroll. The department-by-department employee statistics, from June 2007 and June 2009, were provided to us by the Ockomon Administration, and we asked lots of questions to try to confirm their validity. We even showed them to former mayor Kevin Smith and Morris Long, the controller during the Smith Administration.

Though Smith felt the data were fishy, he provided little detail about what, exactly, was eschew. Long pointed out no specific data that he thought were false.

Aside from the issue of why some employees are listed more than once on both the 2007 and 2009 rosters (we’re still seeking an explanation for that from the Ockomon Administration), it appears that the lists are legitimate. If there are problems with the data, we’re sure we’ll hear from people in the know during the next few days.

In the absence of such damning information, two conclusions can be drawn:

u The Ockomon Administration has, indeed, cut staff as it tries to deal with a shrinking budget.

u While there are fewer positions now in city government, the payroll is slightly larger — about $83,000 more — now than in 2007.

That’s not a lot when you consider that the overall annual payroll is more than $30 million, but it still raises the question of why the total payroll for city employees is higher now when there are about 31 fewer full-time equivalents than there were in 2007.

It should be noted, however, that fewer employees means the city is paying less for health insurance and other benefits. And, of course, you have to factor in the shifting of pay away from employees to contractors — something that’s happened in animal control and in the parks department.

So what conclusions can we draw from this 2007 versus 2009 comparison? Principally, that the current city administration is making an effort to shed employees, which has to be part of the formula for staying within the budget.

In the absence of hard evidence to the contrary, perhaps this will take a nick out of that wall of distrust that surrounds Anderson city government.

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