- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2003

D.C. Council members yesterday could not guarantee that they will approve a raise for Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, even if the mayor deletes language in the resolution that would have authorized him to give big raises to other top managers.

Most of the opposition to Chief Ramsey’s pay increase stems from some of the council members’ dissatisfaction with the operations of the police department. They said the department still has problems, including a lack of officers in neighborhoods, poor performance in investigations and a rising crime rate.

“I don’t support the pay raise at all until [Chief Ramsey] earns it, and there’s no question in my mind he hasn’t,” said council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat.

However, council member Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat, disagreed: “I’m supportive of giving Chief Ramsey a raise for a variety of reasons. When you benchmark what he does compared to other cities, he’s making less.”

The Washington Times reported yesterday that D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams was prepared to rewrite an emergency resolution introduced last month that would raise Chief Ramsey’s salary from $150,000 to $175,000 by adding the position of police chief to the highest level of the D.C. government’s executive-service pay schedule and raising the salary cap for that level to $175,000.

That would in effect permit Mr. Williams to pay his agency directors and Cabinet members, who are currently on the executive-service pay schedule, as much as $34,000 more a year. Executive-service employees’ salaries are now capped at $141,000 a year.

A spokesman for Mr. Williams said Thursday it was never the mayor’s intention to “hoodwink” anyone with the resolution, and that Mr. Williams would narrow the language so that the raise would apply only to Chief Ramsey, if it meant that in the end the council would approve his raise.

But several council members were dissatisfied that such a resolution ever made it to the council in the first place.

“If they’re trying to say it’s a mistake, that’s one heck of a mistake,” Mr. Fenty said yesterday. “If they’re trying to say it wasn’t a big deal, I don’t think anybody thinks that.”

Council member Harold Brazil, at-large Democrat, said Chief Ramsey deserves a raise. Earlier this week, Mr. Brazil called a June 2 letter, in which council member Kathy Patterson questioned Mr. Williams on the wording of the resolution, a “vendetta.”

“This is just an example of Patterson carrying a vendetta against the mayor and Chief Ramsey,” said Mr. Brazil.

Mrs. Patterson — Ward 3 Democrat and chairman of the council’s Judiciary Committee, which oversees the police department — and council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, oppose the chief’s pay raise.

Mr. Mendelson said his opposition stems from, among other things, ongoing problems with the city’s 911 emergency-call center, “unacceptable” closure rates on police investigations, and the police department’s handling of the September 2002 World Bank and International Monetary Fund protests, in which police herded demonstrators into Pershing Park and arrested them.

“I will not be voting for a pay increase that is perceived by the public as a reward for the chief’s service, and I will not be voting for the benefits package,” Mr. Mendelson said.

Chief Ramsey’s current $150,000 salary puts him at No. 7 on the list of the highest-paid workers in the District, which has a proliferation of six-figure salaries.

The Washington Times first reported in April that the District has more workers earning $100,000-plus salaries than Chicago, a city with nearly 3 million residents, and Baltimore, a city comparable in size to the District, with 651,000 residents. The District has 572,000 residents.

Of the District’s 34,000 city employees, 575 make more than $100,000 a year. In comparison, 419 of Chicago’s 40,000 city workers and just 33 of Baltimore’s 15,000 city workers earn that much.

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, on Thursday defended the District’s high salaries, saying the city must pay its workers higher salaries in order to compete with the federal government and the salaries it offers to members of its work force.

“The federal government actually serves as a pretty tough competition for salaries and the city has to compete against a work force that is used to high-salary-paying jobs,” said Mrs. Landrieu. “And that drives [the Districts] salary-and-benefit requirements higher than other cities.”

But jurisdictions like Fairfax and Montgomery counties, which also compete with the federal government, do not pay their employees as much as the District.

Fairfax County, which has more than 1 million residents, employs 11,000 government workers, of which 143 earn more than $100,000 a year.

Montgomery County, with 891,347 residents, has 7,000 workers, of which 249 make $100,000-plus a year. Of the 249, 111 are doctors, psychiatrists and other health officials employed with the county’s health and human services department.

The council does not have to confirm Chief Ramsey for a second term, but it does have to approve any increase in his compensation package, including salary and retirement benefits.

Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat; Sandy Allen, Ward 8 Democrat; and Kevin Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat have said they would only vote for the pay increase if it is tied to performance measures, such as putting more officers in city neighborhoods and reducing crime.

“I would not vote for it if it’s not tied to performance,” said Mr. Chavous.

Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, declined to discuss Chief Ramsey’s raise until a June 17 hearing. Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat; Vincent Orange, Ward 5 Democrat; David Catania, at-large Republican; and Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, did not return telephone calls seeking comment yesterday.

If he serves the four-year, nine-month term of his proposed contract, Chief Ramsey has said he will have worked almost 10 years as chief with only one raise. He has said he deserves a raise and doesn’t agree that it should be contingent on performance measures.

“It’s a little disappointing that we have to go through this sort of thing,” Chief Ramsey said on WTOP Radio’s “Ask the Chief” program Thursday.

The chief said his critics are judging him on the basis of a bad last year, when the homicide rate rose to its highest level in five years. He said overall crime is lower than in April 1998, when he came to the District.

He also said he is not worried about finding another job if the contract dispute “doesn’t work out.”

Brian DeBose and Ellen Sorokin contributed to this report.

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