- The Washington Times - Friday, May 9, 2003


   Several Republican congressional leaders said yesterday that they plan to look into the six-figure salaries paid to 575 D.C. government employees because they’re not convinced the city is getting its money’s worth.
   “It’s like the question, do you pay the quarterback $6 million? You do if he wins the games, but that doesn’t seem to be happening here,” said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, which has oversight of many D.C. matters.
   Sen. George V. Voinovich, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee for the District, said it would be fair for Congress to investigate the executive-style pay if those high-salaried employees aren’t producing quality work.
   “I am going to have my staff look into it, because now you have me curious,” said Mr. Voinovich, Ohio Republican. “This is just another reason why I think [Congress] should have some oversight of the District.”
   The Times first reported last month that the District has many more city workers earning $100,000 salaries than Chicago, a city with nearly 3 million residents, and Baltimore, a city similar in size to the District, with 651,000 residents.
   With 572,000 residents, the District has 156 more workers earning more than $100,000 annually than Chicago does. Only 34 of Baltimore’s 15,000 city employees earn more than $100,000 a year.
   Of the District’s 34,000 city employees, 575 earn $100,000 or more a year, up from 301 in 1999, when Mayor Anthony A. Williams took office.
   Mr. Williams had said he was going to review the salaries and try to determine why the District had so many employees earning top dollar when the city — like many others nationwide — is strapped for cash. But City Administrator John A. Koskinen later said the administration would review only manpower issues, not salaries.
   Mr. Davis said yesterday that the issue of salaries could be raised today during a committee hearing on vouchers in D.C. public schools. “We have some concerns. … It’s one of the many things we are examining,” Mr. Davis said.
   Mr. Voinovich was not familiar with the details involving the salaries. But he said he understands that cities need to pay top dollar to recruit strong candidates. The real question, he said, is the productivity of those employees.
   He said one of the first things he did when he was mayor of Cleveland was look at the salaries because they can be a problem in large budgets. “We found that sometimes people had incomplete skills and weren’t doing the job,” he said.
   Mr. Voinovich was elected mayor in 1978 after Mayor Dennis J. Kucinich lost his re-election bid. Under Mr. Kucinich, who is now a four-term congressman seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, Cleveland went into default and could not pay its bills.
   During his 12 years as mayor of the heavily Democratic city, Mr. Voinovich helped restore Cleveland, which now is home to, among other things, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
   Mr. Davis said he also was more concerned with employee productivity than with the number of workers receiving six-figure salaries.
   “I don’t have a quarrel with the number of high-priced employees if they are producing good results. But that’s not the case here,” Mr. Davis said. “The fact is the D.C. government nibbles around the edge of problems, when what it really needs is some major surgery.”
   Democrats said comparing the District to other jurisdictions was unfair and didn’t think Congress should intervene.
   “A new attorney, fresh out of law school hired by the city of Chicago, is going to make $125,000,” said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, a ranking member on the Senate Appropriations and the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittees for the District.
   “In order to get top people, you have to pay top salaries, and it’s not a fair comparison with Chicago or any other city,” said Mr. Durbin, Illinois Democrat. “And I think the D.C. government should be able to make its own decisions with regards to hiring.”
   Rep. Chaka Fattah, Pennsylvania Democrat, said attracting people to work for the D.C. government is difficult and that higher salaries are needed.
   “There are thousands of people who work in this city for the federal government, for the administration and even lobbyists who make well over $100,000,” said Mr. Fattah, a ranking member on the House Appropriations subcommittee for the District.
   “I would not be in a rush to be critical of the D.C. government and its hiring, because I don’t think you can find another major city in better fiscal shape than D.C.,” he said. “All have deficits, but D.C. has been able to manage its affairs. … And good managers for the city cost money.”
   

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