- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Mayor Anthony A. Williams, weathering criticism for the city’s high number of $100,000-plus salaries, is pushing emergency legislation through the D.C. Council that would allow him to pay his top managers as much as $34,000 more a year without the council’s approval.

The measure is attached to legislation that would grant Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey a $25,000 raise, making him one of the highest-paid police chiefs in the country. The chief’s pay would increase from $150,000 to $175,000 a year.

The legislation adds the position of police chief to the highest level of the D.C. government’s executive-service pay schedule and changes the salary range for that level.

But the legislation also opens the door for the mayor to increase the salaries of other appointees already on the executive-service pay schedule to $175,000. Now, an executive-service employee can earn as much as $141,000 a year.

“It is my understanding that the pay schedule pending before the council, while it permits you to raise Chief Ramsey’s base pay to $175,000 per year, would also enable you to compensate any member of the executive service at a level up to that amount,” D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson said in a letter sent to Mr. Williams on Monday.

“In effect, we would be approving a pay schedule that would raise to $175,000 from $141,000 the maximum any member of the executive service could earn without additional council approval.”

Mr. Williams’ chief of staff, Kelvin J. Robinson, said the salary resolution is written for Chief Ramsey and no one else.

“It is not our intent to raise the cap, and we have always recognized and identified that if we wanted to raise the pay scale for a salary or any employee above the cap we have to go to the council,” Mr. Robinson said yesterday.

There are five levels within the executive pay schedule, with salaries from $80,000 to $100,000 for level one and from $111,300 to $141,000 for level five.

Under the D.C. Code, the mayor has tremendous flexibility in assigning salaries within the scale without seeking the council’s approval. But the council has to approve any change to the pay scale, including raising the $141,000 salary cap.

“I don’t see anything in the resolution that speaks to [raising the cap], but if it does, then we had authority a long time ago because all of our salary resolutions read just like this one,” Mr. Robinson said.

But the council’s legal counsel disagrees.

“This is a whole level that is being affected,” said Charlotte Brookins-Hudson, the council’s general counsel. “The council sets the pay schedules, and the mayor has authority to set the levels without further review by the council.”

“I know the intent was not to increase [the salaries of all Cabinet members], just the chief, but it does look like a consequence of this bill would increase the cap for any employee at the level-five pay grade to $175,000.” she said.

The legislation was introduced on an emergency basis May 9 by council Chairman Linda W. Cropp at the request of Mr. Williams.

Because it was introduced as emergency legislation, it will bypass the council’s normal 60-day review period and face a vote after a first reading. The council and its judiciary and government-operations committees will hold a joint hearing on the legislation June 17.

Mrs. Patterson — Ward 3 Democrat and chairman of the judiciary committee, which oversees the police department — said in her letter to Mr. Williams that it might be time to revisit the pay schedule, something that has been done with “considerable study and debate” in the past.

Chief Ramsey signed a five-year contract with the financial control board in April 1998. He was granted an exemption to earn $150,000, instead of the $138,000 annual salary that was authorized for a police chief.

Although the council doesn’t have to confirm Chief Ramsey for his second term, it does have to approve any increases to the chief’s compensation package. A separate bill spells out a four-year, nine-month term for the chief, seeks to increase the chief’s retirement benefits and offers him a six-month severance pay if he is fired without cause.

Mr. Williams’ measure comes at a time when City Administrator John A. Koskinen has undertaken a manpower review of three city-run agencies. The review is in response to reports that first appeared in The Washington Times in April detailing the proliferation of six-figure salaries in the D.C. government.

The District has more workers earning $100,000-plus salaries than Chicago, a city with nearly 3 million residents, and Baltimore, a city similar 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 33 of Baltimore’s 15,000 city workers earn that much.

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