- The Washington Times - Friday, May 16, 2003

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said yesterday he expects to begin investigating the proliferation of six-figure salaries in the D.C. government sometime next month.

“Of course accountability is an issue and we are going to be looking into that,” said Mr. Davis, Virginia Republican, whose committee has oversight of D.C. matters.

“But right now, this is not a top priority. … My time frame right now extends up to the middle of June, so this review won’t be before then.”

Mr. Davis said the salary issue requires attention, likening it to an editorial cartoon in The Washington Post yesterday that showed D.C. officials questioning high salaries while riding a merry-go-round.

“The important thing is we are moving forward,” a small caption reads.

Last week, The Washington Times reported that Mr. Davis and Sen. George V. Voinovich, Ohio Republican, said they would investigate why the District has 575 of its 34,000 city government employees earning more than $100,000 a year.

The Times first reported last month that the District has many more workers earning in excess of $100,000 than Chicago, a city with nearly 3 million residents, and Baltimore, a city of similar size to the District, with 651,000 residents. The District has 572,000 residents.

In comparison, 419 of Chicago’s 40,000 city workers and 33 of Baltimore’s 15,000 city workers earn six-figure salaries.

Mr. Davis’ comments came after yesterday’s Government Reform Committee hearing on the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA).

During the hearing, Mr. Davis questioned the agency’s director, Olivia A. Golden, about the salaries of city social workers.

“How much does a starting social worker with a [masters degree] earn?” Mr. Davis asked.

“If we were able to retain social workers, how much could someone who had been with the agency for 15 years expect to make?” Mr. Davis continued.

Mrs. Golden told Mr. Davis an entry-level employee with a master’s degree could earn $40,000. She estimated that long-term employees make about $60,000.

Mrs. Golden earns $132,395 a year. Before taking over CFSA, she worked seven years at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

She said her agency now has 270 employees. She said she hoped additional funding from the District would allow her agency to hire about 50 more employees next year.

The salary issue is important because social workers are among the lowest-paid employees on the District’s payroll and are among those workers who change jobs most frequently. The national turnover rate among social workers is 20 percent; the local turnover rate is 17 percent.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting member of Congress, suggested adding student loan relief or education benefits as an incentive to lure and retain more social workers.

The CFSA is one of many city agencies that recently has come under fire for poor management. The U.S. District Court in 1995 placed the agency in receivership. A receivership occurs when either the federal court or D.C. Superior Court takes over an agency until that agency complies with the law.

The CFSA was removed from the receivership six years later, shortly after Mrs. Golden joined it in 2001.

During yesterday’s hearing, Mrs. Golden told committee members her agency had come a long way since she took over.

She said her accomplishments include ensuring every child in need was immediately placed into a foster home and that children were not “warehoused in unregulated group homes.”

But officials from the General Accounting Office (GAO) and several children and family advocates maintain that the CFSA still has not met many of its goals.

“While time frames for implementing certain policies, such as initiating investigations and completing safety assessments have improved since 2000, caseworkers still take considerably longer than the prescribed time limits to complete these critical tasks, thereby increasing the potential risks posed to the safety and well-being of the District’s children,” said Cornelia M. Ashby, director for education, work force and income security issues for the GAO.

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