- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2003

The District last year paid 813 municipal employees more than $100,000, including many who collected two or three times their base pay, according to city records obtained by The Washington Times.

Among them, 469 had six-figure annual salaries, but the remaining 344 made $100,000 by either racking up overtime or collecting years of back wages after being unlawfully fired by the city.

The Times first reported in April there are 575 six-figure salaries in the D.C. government for this year, but that figure does not include employees who will earn more than $100,000 with overtime or settlements.

The highest-paid worker on the 2002 payroll was Ana Escobar, a $66,577-a-year worker who got $336,077 in back pay last year to settle her lawsuit over being fired from the city’s financial office in 1997 by Mayor Anthony A. Williams, the District’s chief financial officer at the time.

Next was Harkewal S. Sekhon, a $77,333-a-year biology professor at the University of the District of Columbia who was paid $277,493 last year to cover pay and benefits lost when he was improperly fired in 1997.

The university reinstated Mr. Sekhon in 2001 and was required to fulfill a court order to pay him four years’ back wages.

“They were just delaying, saying they were working on this and working on that, and they delayed it for two years,” said Mr. Sekhon, 60.

The settlements were paid out of city accounts and applicable taxes were deducted.

The Times first reported in April the proliferation of six-figure salaries in the D.C. government. The District, with 572,000 residents, employs more city-government workers making $100,000-plus salaries than Chicago, with nearly 3 million residents, and Baltimore, with 651,000 residents.

While 469 of the District’s 34,000 city employees were paid $100,000-plus salaries last year, 575 staffers are above that threshold this year.

By comparison, 419 of Chicago’s 40,000 city workers and 33 of Baltimore’s 15,000 staff make that much.

A third of the city employees who took home more than $100,000 last year despite having base salaries less than that, were either members of the police or fire departments or emergency medical services. Most of their extra earnings came from overtime paid in accordance with federal labor laws.

D.C. firefighters and emergency medical workers accounted for 108 of those making more than $100,000 last year. Twenty-five of them had salaries at that level; 83 earned more than their base pay to attain six figures.

The Metropolitan Police Department last year had 188 employees who made more than $100,000. Of those, 26 had six-figure salaries but 162 took home more than $100,000. Police officials with salaries less than $100,000 accounted for five of the 15 highest-paid city workers in 2002.

D.C. police Detective James V. Francis was the sixth-highest-paid D.C. employee last year, making $207,107. His salary was $69,200.

He has continued to earn much more than his base pay. For the two-week pay period ending before the July 4 holiday, Detective Francis made $6,903 in overtime in addition to his $2,794 base pay.

D.C. police Detective Willie Jefferson Jr. was the seventh-highest-paid staffer last year. He made $196,163 while his salary, too, was $69,200.

D.C. police Lt. Guy R. Middleton was the eighth-highest paid, making $189,601. His salary was $80,494. His paycheck before the July 4 holiday included $4,860 in overtime atop his $3,250 base pay.

“I can’t imagine how you get that, but I guess it’s possible,” said Randi Blank, spokeswoman for the D.C. government personnel office.

D.C. police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile said detectives earning large amounts of overtime is not unusual. They make extra money by working long hours, evenings and other shifts that earn higher rates of pay.

He said that Lt. Middleton, for example, works for the department’s major-case squad and racks up overtime working crime scenes at odd hours. The lieutenant spends his off hours testifying in court, earning additional overtime. “These guys spend half their life in court,” said Sgt. Gentile.

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