District of Columbia government salary

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State Information

District of Columbia government salaries are available from December 31, 2008 on archive.org.[1]

Public employee salaries

According to a 2011 database compiled by The Washington Times, the median salary for an executive assistant is now $72,000, with one in ten making $90,000 or more and the highest-paid making $110,000. Payroll for the District’s 33,400 employees has swelled under the strain of a disproportionately aged workforce that includes thousands of low-level workers who are making salaries commensurate with many years of experience.[2]

The Times' analysis shows that many of the positions in D.C. includes "workers whose functions are making photocopies and transcribing handwritten forms, and job titles still distinguish between secretaries who can type and those who can’t. Illuminating a seeming preference for processing postal mail over email and filing cabinets over instantaneous searches is the fact that one in five clerical assistants have worked for the city for more than 20 years."[2]

City law caps pay for agency heads at $179,096.[2]

Illegal pay

An investigation undertaken by City Council member Mary M. Cheh, a Ward 3 Democrat, found the mayor was paying at least 14 political appointees higher salaries than the law allowed. Council approved legislation granting exceptions for the employees who had been promised more, including $275,000 for schools chancellor Kaya Henderson and $254,000 for Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, while maintaining the caps for their successors.[2]

Washington, D.C. employee salaries[3]
Office '11 salary Current official
City Administrator $295,000 Allen Lew
President $295,000 Allen Sessoms
Superintendent of Schools $275,000 Kaytanya Henderson
Metropolitan Police Chief $230,743 Cathy Lanier
Mayor $275,000 Vincent Gray
Chief Financial Officer $199,700 Natwar Gandhi
Chief of Staff $193,125 Warren Graves
Fire Chief $187,302 Kenneth Ellerbe
Deputy Mayor $185,000 Paul Quander
Chief Medical Examiner $185,000 Marie Pierre Louis
Director Department of Health $179,096 Mohammmad Akhter

Corruption scandal

In 2012, federal prosecutors investigated the campaign of Washington, D.C. mayor Vincent Gray. U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen had been probing the Gray campaign for nearly 16 months and secured felony guilty pleas from two Gray campaign aides. Investigators had been looking into allegations from minor mayoral candidate Sulaimon Brown that the Gray campaign paid him to remain in the 2010 contest to attack Adrian Fenty, the incumbent and Gray's rival.[4] Two former Gray campaign aides pleaded guilty to charges arising from his 2010 mayoral campaign. One aide admitted lying to the FBI about straw donations to a minor candidate in the race and the other aide admitted funneling the money and destroying evidence of the transactions.[5]

Kwame Brown, the former chairman of the District of Columbia Council, pleaded guilty June 8, 2012 to lying about his income on bank loan applications and also admitted to a misdemeanor campaign finance violation.[6]

On June 6, 2012 Brown was accused in federal court of falsifying his income by tens of thousands on bank applications for a home equity loan and for a boat. He resigned his seat following a closed-door meeting with council members. On June 8, 2012 he pleaded guilty in federal court and was expected to make another court appearance on a separate misdemeanor campaign finance violation that was also brought in D.C. Superior Court.[7]

The charges against Brown come five months after another council member, Harry Thomas Jr., pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $350,000 in public money earmarked for youth sports and arts. He also resigned and was sentenced to more than three years in prison.[8]

A campaign aide to Gray pleaded guilty that off-the-books payments were used for consultants and other campaign expenses. Eugenia "Jeanne" Clarke Harris said in court that $653,000 in illicit funds were funneled through her public relations firm, which she then used on campaign materials, consultants, supplies and other expenses. The money came in between late July and September 14, 2010, the day of the primary. Harris later sought to cover up the way the funds were spent by amending her company's tax returns to claim a nonexistent business relationship between her firm and her co-conspirator's company, court documents show. Before amending the returns, she had improperly deducted the campaign expenditures from her company's returns to avoid having to pay taxes on the money, the documents show.[9]

Gray raised $2.1 million in legitimate campaign funds for the primary, while Fenty brought in $4.9 million.[9]

The "shadow funds" allegedly came from Jeffrey Thompson, a partner in an accounting firm and the owner of a managed care company that has the single largest contract in district government, valued at up to $322 million annually.[9]

Salary records project

In 2011, Sunshine Review chose 152 local governments as the focus of research on public employee salaries. The editors of Sunshine Review selected eight states with relevant political contexts (listed alphabetically):

1. California
2. Florida
3. Illinois
4. Michigan
5. New Jersey
6. Pennsylvania
7. Texas
8. Wisconsin

Within these states, the editors of Sunshine Review focused on the most populous cities, counties and school districts, as well as the emergency services entities within these governments. The purpose of this selection method was to develop articles on governments affecting the most citizens.

The salary information garnered from these states were a combination of existing online resources and state Freedom of Information Act requests sent out to the governments.

Importance of public employee pay disclosure

In July 2010, The Los Angeles Times uncovered that officials in Bell, California were making remarkably high salaries.[10] Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo was earning a yearly $787,637. It was later uncovered that Rizzo's total compensation after taking benefits into account topped $1.5 million a year.[11]

For comparison:[10]

  • Manhattan Beach, with about 7,000 fewer people than Bell, paid its most recent city manager $257,484 a year.
  • Long Beach, with a population close to 500,000, paid its city manager $235,000 annually.
  • Los Angeles County paid its chief executive, William T. Fujioka, $338,458.

Corruption solution

After this report was released, governments began to proactively disclose salary information of their employees. Before the end of the summer of 2010, more than a dozen cities in Orange County, for example, posted salary information on the front pages of their websites.[12]

The cost of transparency websites maintaining such information ranges from the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands. These websites also save money, and this often is not taken into account when measuring costs.

Citizens upset about the breach of trust and armed with information formed a group called the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, which pushed for an independent audit of city salaries and contracts.[13]

Citizens, empowered with information, are key to keeping government free from corruption and efficient. A study published by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia revealed that the city of Philadelphia has a problem with the efficiency and costs of public employee pensions.[14] The amount that Philadelphia pays to pension recipients limits the city’s ability to use its budget effectively.

The report revealed that there were more individuals receiving pension benefits—33,907 claimants in 2006—than workers in the city—28,701.[14] The authors of the study recommend three steps towards addressing the problem of high costs in pensions.[14] First, improve data collection so that decision-making in terms of pension policies is more informed. Second, promote transparency for better accountability to citizens. Third, reduce costs and use the savings for developing Philadelphia.

Resistance to public employee salary data as public records

The idea of making public employee salaries is relatively new. In 2008, several local government employee associations and unions protested the posting of state employee salaries by newspaper The Sacramento Bee.[15][16] At the time, it was seen as a safety risk and invasion of privacy.

Sunshine Review aims in posting salary information

Publicly posted salaries often leave out important information. Salary schedules can be published as ranges, not as specific take-home compensation, and high-level, highly-paid positions are often not disclosed proactively.[12][11] Additionally, salaries leave out compensation received through health and retirement benefits, as well as benefits such as commuter allowances and cell phone reimbursements. This project aimed to close the gap and provide a more accurate picture of public employee salaries for the sake of public education and transparency.

External links