Study: Pay affects public officials' honesty

By Cristina Rendon

Published 10/30 2013 09:29PM

Updated 10/30 2013 11:53PM

SALT LAKE CITY, (ABC 4 Utah) – Public officials are more likely to be honest if they are paid more money, according to a recent study in Germany.

Click here to read the study published in the Journal of Economic Psychology. It found that high paid public officials took 38% of bribes on average compared to low paid public officials who took 91% of bribes offered in the lab study.

ABC 4 Utah talked with West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder about his thoughts on the study.

He said he believes there is truth to the results in other parts of the country or world, but not in Utah. He said he has not and would never take a bribe.

Winder said he works far more than the part-time shift required of the being the city’s mayor that pays an annual salary of $35,000.

“If you talk to your average legislator, if you talk to any mayor or city council member throughout the state the amount of time you put in, let alone blood, sweat, tears and stress for the compensation is really low actually,” he said. “It is truly public service.”

West Jordan Mayor Melissa Johnson feels the same.

“It is absolutely not part-time,” Johnson said. “I average about 60 hours a week.”

Johnson is paid $18,000 a year. We asked her what she thought of the study’s results.

“I don’t know if there’s a direct link between how honest someone is and how much money they receive, but I think there’s this concept in government that we should all play by fair rules,” she said.

Johnson made sure her successor will be paid fairly. West Jordan is changing their next mayor to full-time status and raising the $18,000 salary to $89,500.

“You have to pay them or else the type of people you have running for office will be the independently wealthy,” she added.

Johnson chose not to take the raise while she finishes her term as mayor. Winder will not seek re-election either and hopes future public officials will see more money than he did.

“I’m here as mayor not for the money, but because I care for my city,” Winder added. “I’m sprinting hard to the end and fighting every step of the way, but I really can’t afford to do it forever.”

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