- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2006

Second of three parts.

No clear link exists between the D.C. government’s rising salaries and the performance of city executives enjoying higher wages, city records show.

For example, Lee E. Williams had earned $103,318 a year as the head of the D.C. Taxicab Commission, overseeing 15 employees. The city government boosted his salary by 3.5 percent, to $106,934, last year — just before Mr. Williams was fired for incompetence.

In another example, the D.C. government hired E. Michael Latessa in January 2004 to head the Office of Unified Communications, which handles all of the city’s 911 emergency calls. His salary was $111,000.

During his tenure, the agency has been beset with complaints from residents about improperly dispatched calls — from emergency technicians about being sent to incorrect addresses and from call-takers and dispatchers about poor working conditions.

Mr. Latessa, who headed an emergency communications center in Norwalk, Conn., before coming to the District, saw his pay increase by 16 percent, to $129,000 last year, even though he had served only as the agency’s acting director and was not confirmed by the D.C. Council until last month.

Lisa Marin, head of the District’s Office of Personnel, said the city needs to pay more to attract and retain quality personnel while meeting the governmental needs of a city and of a state. She said that base salaries in the District may be larger than in other jurisdictions, but that lucrative retirement and benefit packages in other jurisdictions bring the total compensation figures in line.

But a review of the city’s payroll data and other records show that no consistent criteria can be discerned in the city government’s executive salaries.

The Washington Times has obtained payroll information from the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Times reported yesterday that the D.C. government’s payroll grew by 11.6 percent — from $1.55 billion to $1.73 billion — from 2002 to 2005, while its work force declined by 5 percent — from 41,171 workers to 39,088 employees.

A significant portion of that payroll growth is evident in the salaries of D.C. government executives, whose pay grew much faster than that of federal executives between 2002 and last year.

Since 2002, the average D.C. government executive salary has grown 10 percent, from $121,905 to $134,252. The federal government’s executive pay scale increased by 6.3 percent during the same period.

The District’s five-tier executive pay scale is modeled after that of the federal government. Only the D.C. Council can change the pay scale, but the mayor has significant flexibility in assigning salaries within the tiers.

The council last year changed the pay scale’s lowest level from between $80,000 and $100,000 to between $82,800 and $124,200. The pay scale’s highest level rose from $141,000 to $173,880.

Three D.C. employees earn salaries of at least $200,000, but their agencies are independent of the D.C. government and their budgets are not subject to direct government control. They are: public schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey; Allen Y. Lew, chief executive officer of the Sports & Entertainment Commission; and William L. Pollard, president of the University of the District of Columbia.

The criteria for executive salaries within the five tiers is not clear.

A signature initiative of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams that was designed to let the public track the performance of city agencies has fallen into disrepair.

A series of “score cards” rolled out in April 2000 and posted on the city’s Web site, at www.dc.gov/mayor/scorecards/index.shtm, has not been updated since October 2004.

According to the D.C. Office of Personnel, the assignments are based on an agency’s budget characteristics, its work-force characteristics, the complexity of its mission and functions, and the desired qualifications for, or the impact of the person on, the position. Such criteria can be difficult to quantify.

For instance, in 2002, Health Department Director James A. Buford and Child and Family Services Director Olivia Golden were assigned the same slot and each earned $132,395 a year.

Miss Golden, who is credited with leading the Department of Child and Family Services out of court-ordered receivership, resigned two years later in April 2004.

Brenda Donald Walker succeeded Miss Golden for a year and a half and earned a salary of $144,538 before departing to become deputy mayor of children, youth, families and elders.

The post currently is filled on an interim basis by Uma Ahluwalia, who is paid $122,117 a year — or about $10,000 less than Miss Golden made in 2002.

Meanwhile, at the Department of Health, Mr. Buford was given a raise from $132,395 to $140,000 in 2003. In October that year, he was roundly criticized for his handling of a mercury spill at Ballou High School.

In March 2004, after he was criticized for his agency’s response to the discovery of excessive amounts of lead in city drinking water, Mr. Buford was “removed” from the job.

His successor, Dr. Gregg A. Pane, was hired with a salary of $180,000 a year — or about $48,000 more than Mr. Buford earned in 2002.

In another case, G. Greg Chen, the head of the Office of Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, had a salary of $74,825 in 2002. That was about $5,300 less per year than his counterpart in the Office of Latino Affairs, Gustavo Velasquez.

But by last year, Mr. Chen’s salary had increased 39.3 percent, to $104,268. And the Office of Latino Affairs is now headed by Rosario Gutierrez, who earns $103,500 annually — $768 less per year than Mr. Chen.

When City Administrator John A. Koskinen left the government in 2003, he earned a salary of $135,000. His replacement — Robert C. Bobb — was granted an exemption by the D.C. Council to exceed the salary cap and make $195,000.

When Margret Nedelkoff Kellems left her post as deputy mayor of public safety and justice in June 2004, she was earning $132,395. By the time Ed Reiskin was appointed to the position in January 2005, the salary had grown to $145,000 — as it had for the other three deputy mayors.

Meanwhile, Devon Brown heads the Department of Corrections for $165,000 a year — $35,000 more per year than his predecessor, Odie Washington.

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