Houston employee salaries

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Houston employee salaries are public records under the Texas Public Information Act.[1]


According to The Texas Tribune, Houston had a total of 17,591 employees at an annual salary cost of $888,942,237 in 2011.[2]

  • The average salary was $50,533.
  • The median was $48,421.
  • The highest salary was $238,254 for David Persse, the EMS Physician Director.
  • The lowest salary was $321.
  • There were 25 employees earning over $150,000 a year.

The following table outlines the top 10 salaries in 2011:[3]

Name Title Department Hire date Annual salary
David E Persse EMS Physician Director, MD (Exe Lev) Fire 10/7/1996 $238,254
Charles A Mcclelland Police Chief Police 5/23/1977 $211,150
David Morris Feldman City Attorney Legal 5/3/2010 $211,150
Daniel W. Krueger Public Works Director Public Works & Engineering 7/29/2010 $200,000
Chris Souders Associate Ems Physician Director Fire 9/5/2001 $198,500
Lynette Kay Fons First Assistant City Attorney Legal 5/17/2010 $185,400
Joseph A Fenninger Deputy Director-Finance/Administration (Exe Lev) Police 2/1/2007 $183,504
Tommy Paul Allen First Assistant City Attorney Legal 6/18/2007 $180,306
Terry Almon Garrison Fire Chief Fire 9/16/2010 $175,000
David Jay Morgan Deputy Director (Exe Lev) Police 7/31/2009 $174,683


According to the City of Houston website, the following benefits are offered to employees:[4]

  • Health and dental
  • Life Insurance
  • Healthcare flexible spending account
  • Long-term disability
  • Vacation, sick days, holidays and wellness leave.
  • Defined benefit plan or 457 plan

Phone use

From January 1, 2008 through January 31, 2011, Houston gave out 13,880 cell phones to employees.[5]

Department Device units
Houston Police Department 4179
Houston Fire Department 1907
Emergency Management 117
Municipal Courts 124
Municipal Courts Judicial 3
Public Works and Engineering 2487
Solid Waste 123
General Services 264
Houston Airport 868
Housing and Community Development 106
Houston Public Library 115
Parks and Recreation Department 247
Health and Human Services 1765
Convention and Entertainment 120
Mayor's Office 86
Affirmative Action 21
City Council 129
City Controller Office 17
Administration and Regulatory Affairs 40
Finance 629
Fleet Management 37
Information Technology 352
Planning and Development 29
Human Resources 73
Legal Department 37
General Government 5
Grand Total 13880

Car use

Sunshine Review filed a Texas Public Information Act request with the [Houston, Texas|City of Houston] for information on city-owned automobiles and maintenance costs. The information returned on May 3, 2011 is below. The response was signed by Janice Evans, Director of Communications in the Office of the Mayor.

Department Number of take-home vehicles
Administration and Regulatory Affairs 10
Aviation 11
Fire 238
General Service 24
Health 6
Human Resources 11
Information Technology 6
Mayor\'s Office 5
Police 747
Public Works 364
Parks & Recreation 22
Solid Waste 5

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.[6] 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.[7]

For comparison:[6]

  • 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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[10] The authors of the study recommend three steps towards addressing the problem of high costs in pensions.[10] 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.[11][12] 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.[8][7] 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

External links