Despite nearly $16 billion in annual losses announced by the U.S. Postal Service on Thursday, all but one of the top five executives for the nation's mail service had an overall compensation increase this year, records show.
Unlike past years, when the Postal Service's politically appointed, bipartisan board of governors awarded executives lucrative deferred compensation deals and incentive bonuses, this year's compensation increases came mostly in the form of pension plan earnings.
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, for instance, earned a base salary of $276,840, but even without a bonus or incentive payout, his overall compensation came to $512,093, compared with $384,229 in 2011, according to regulatory filings.
Fueling the rise was the fact that his retirement account grew by $186,536. A 37-year employee of the Postal Service, Mr. Donahoe was paid $4.76 per hour during his first job as a postal clerk.
Meanwhile, two other executives — Ellis Burgoyne, chief information officer, and Mary Anne Gibbons, general counsel — also received hefty increases in their retirement plans.
In fact, Mr. Burgoyne's retirement plan grew by more than $270,000, bringing his total compensation to $510,505, slightly less than Mr. Donahoe's.
Compensation for Joseph Corbett, the Postal Service's chief financial officer, rose from $310,483 in 2011 to $315,841 last year, though he earned more than $330,000 in 2010.
In addition, the Postal Service's chief human resources officer, Anthony J. Vegilante, received $60,000 in retention bonuses for fiscal 2011 and 2012 on top of his $240,000 annual salary, filings show. Nonetheless, Mr. Vegilante's overall compensation for 2012 dipped to $363,002, compared with $364,667 the previous year.
A sixth postal executive, acting Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President Stephen Masse, was not subject to compensation reporting requirements until this year, and he earned $222,919 overall.
Dave Partenheimer, a Postal Service spokesman, said the organization has more than a half-million workers and operates more than 32,000 locations. He said postal executive compensation lags compared with private-sector corporations.
"As we continue to adjust to a changing business environment, it's important that we recruit and retain the forward-thinking leadership we need to continue to remain viable," he said. "Compensation is important to that equation."
Unlike most private companies, however, the Postal Service has borrowed billions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury and has a legal monopoly over first-class mail service.
Total compensation for top postal executives is capped at $276,840, based on a rule that executives can't earn more than 120 percent of the salary of the vice president of the United States. But the board of governors, which approves executive compensation for the Postal Service, can authorize hundreds of thousands of dollars in deferred compensation payments.
The Washington Times reported last year, for instance, that retired Postmaster General John E. Potter, now chief executive of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, was still owed more than $800,000 in deferred compensation payments with payouts scheduled over a decade.
In an annual financial report released Thursday, the board noted that no performance awards would be paid in 2012 because of the Postal Service's "dire financial condition."
"Despite the many significant accomplishments of postal management during fiscal 2012, the governors based their decisions on compensation on the fact that the Postal Service continues to face significant financial challenges," the report says.
Meanwhile, Thursday's financial news continued to raise sharp questions about the mail service's long-term future.
Announcing $15.9 billion in losses for fiscal 2012, postal officials urged Congress to pass legislation that would address a host of issues, including a requirement that the Postal Service pre-fund retiree health care benefits. That mandate alone accounted for about 70 percent of the Postal Service's net loss for fiscal 2012, officials said.
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