Hillsborough County employee salaries

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Hillsborough County employee salaries are public records under the Florida Sunshine Law.

Salaries and benefits

Sunshine Review submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the county seeking employee salary and benefits information. The county responded with annual salary data for 4,906 total employees. Salaries of key county officials, as well as any employees earning over $150,000 per year as of 2011, include:

Name Position Annual salary
Vernard I. Adams Chief Medical Examiner $250,411.20
Donald R. Odom County Attorney $205,171.20
Michael S. Merrill County Administrator $195,000.00
Laura S. Hair Associate Medical Examiner $186,076.80
Mary K. Mainland Deputy Chief Medical Examiner $185,723.20
Leszek Chrostowski Associate Medical Examiner $178,048.00
Elise F. Arbefeville Associate Medical Examiner $174,990.40
Christine M. Beck Senior Assistant County $168,521.60
Richard D. Garrity Executive Director EPC $165,048.00
Mary Helen Farris Senior Assistant County $156,790.40
Robert E. Brazel Senior Assistant County $156,748.80
Rogelio Dean Director Information and TE $155,292.80
Eric R. Johnson Director Management and Budget $151,590.40
Allen H. Higginbotham County Commissioner $100,753.12
Mark S. Sharpe County Commissioner $91,593.84
Kenneth L. Hagan, Jr. County Commissioner $91,593.84
Lesley J. Miller County Commissioner $91,593.84
Kevin A. Beckner County Commissioner $91,593.84
Sandra L. Murman County Commissioner $91,593.84
Victor D. Crist County Commissioner $91,593.84

According to the information, combined annual salaries totaled $232,291,659.31.[1]

Phone use

Sunshine Review submitted a Freedom of Information Act request seeking information regarding county cell phones. The county's total cell phone count from January 2008 to January 2011 was as follows:[2]

Month Total cell phones
Jan, 08 3,279
Feb, 08 3,285
Mar, 08 3,285
Apr, 08 3,268
May, 08 2,742
Jun, 08 2,742
Jul, 08 2,737
Aug, 08 2,738
Sep, 08 2,745
Oct, 08 2,762
Nov, 08 2,765
Dec, 08 2,765
Jan, 09 2,766
Feb, 09 2,813
Mar, 09 2,883
Apr, 09 2,883
May, 09 3,219
Jun, 09 3,194
Jul, 09 3,193
Aug, 09 3,193
Sep. 09 3,193
Oct, 09 2,894
Nov, 09 3,028
Dec, 09 3,028
Jan, 10 2,991
Feb, 10 2,994
Mar, 10 2,985
Apr, 10 2,742
May, 10 2,600
Jun, 10 2,512
Jul, 10 2,419
Aug, 10 2,311
Sep, 10 2,266
Oct, 10 2,038
Nov, 10 2,011
Dec, 10 1,994
Jan, 11 2,015

Car use

A Freedom of Information Request with the county sought information on county take-home vehicles. The county reported a total of 179 vehicles parked off-site. 164 of those vehicles were parked at the employee's residence, while 15 parked at remote county facilities. 127 of these vehicles were assigned to the Public Utilities Department. Vehicles were assigned to the following departments:[2]

Department Total take-home vehicles
Public Utilities Department 127
Traffic 32
Fire Rescue 8
Planning and Growth 4
Public Works/Roads 3
Code Enforcement 2
Mosquito Control 2
Information Technology 1

County commuting costs were reported as follows (excluding labor costs):[2]

Department Average remote days Total cost
Public Utilities 54 $108,597
P/Works Traffic 240 $110,157
Fire/Rescue 240 $33,078
Planning & Growth 240 $18,064
P/Works Roads 240 $19,046
Planning & Growth 240 $1612
Mosquito Control 240 $10,791
Information Tech 240 $744
Total $302,089

The county further broke down the usage of the vehicles used by the Public Utilities Department, claiming that only four vehicles are taken home more than 200 days per year. On any given day, an average of 81 county vehicles are parked off-site.[2]

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.[3] 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.[4]

For comparison:[3]

  • 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.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[7] The authors of the study recommend three steps towards addressing the problem of high costs in pensions.[7] 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.[8][9] 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.[5][4] 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.

See also

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References