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Study: About 6% of state employees make six figures

Maryland Reporter’s third annual report on state salaries found that 5,663 state employees pulled in $100,000 or greater in 2012 — about 6 percent of total state employees. Three out of four of these six-figure salaries are earned by people working for state colleges and universities — more than 10 percent of the full-time employees — led by three million-dollar coaches.

This total is slightly higher than last year’s number, when 5,552 people — again, about 6 percent of state work force — made $100,000 or more, but 500 more than calendar 2010 when furloughs reduced all state salaries. The state employed close to 94,828 total full-time employees in 2012, according to budget documents including figures for higher education, non-budgeted agencies and contractual employees.

The median household income in Maryland was $72,419, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, meaning half of Maryland homes make less than that amount.

Market drives salaries

Public policy experts on both sides of the political spectrum said that Maryland’s salaries seem to be in line with the marketplace.

Christopher Summers, president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute, a free-market oriented think tank, said that salaries should be considered within the market for those jobs.

“It’s good that we have transparency of public employee compensation,” Summers said. “(But) I think when you look at the overall compensation packages, it would be very comparable if these same individuals were to hold the same positions of responsibility in the private sector.”

In particular, medical doctors, who earned some of the highest wages in the university system and non-education state government offices in 2012, could probably earn higher wages in the private sector, he said.

MarylandReporter.com’s analysis of 2012 payroll data provided by the Office of the Maryland Comptroller found that 5,663 employees paid by the state made more than $100,000. The data includes contractors and hourly workers. Some Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services who made more than $100,000 were excluded from the list because of an accounting change midway through the year as the department reorganized.

About three-fourths of earners making $100,000 or more are employed by Maryland’s public universities and colleges. University employees dominate the highest-paid echelons of state employees, with non-university employees only coming into the rankings after 269 university employees.

The judiciary, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Maryland State Police and the Maryland Department of Transportation have the most $100,000-plus workers of non-university state departments.

Universities lead salaries

At the top of the list of highest paid employees are three coaches at University of Maryland, College Park. Head Football Coach Randy Edsall earned $2,011,720, Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mark Turgeon earned $2,001,149 and Head Women’s Basketball Coach Brenda Frese earned $984,637.

Rounding out the top 10 paid are higher-ups at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and University of Maryland, Baltimore. Many of those are doctors whose private practice patients go through the university system.

“Fully two-thirds of those salaries come from private non-taxpayer sources,” said Mike Lurie, a spokesman for the University System of Maryland. “Technically these private practice physicians are de facto members of the professor faculty at the university School of Medicine, but the salary that you see listed is not paid by the state — about one third of that number is.”

The payroll database maintained by the comptroller’s office does not distinguish sources of funding for salaries. Especially in the universities, there are other sources of income that help offset salaries – whether it is research grants brought in by faculty, endowed chairs funded through donation, private patient payments or sports media deals.

For some employees, there is a big difference between their annual salary and the amount the state actually paid them. For instance, Edsall’s salary is listed as $400,000 but the football coach was paid more than $2 million.

The state’s database for gross payments includes salaries plus bonuses, annual leave payouts, overtime, payments for working late shifts, Social Security and Medicare taxes, and any increases in pay for temporarily performing increased duties.

Most state employees do not make six-figure salaries and are hard-working people who have endured furlough days and pay freezes in the recent years, said Jeff Pittman, communications director for the state employee union American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME Maryland). Most employees in the union are not in the six-figure pay range and take note of higher government salaries.

“For state employees, non-teachers, the average is around $41,000 a year, so they definitely look at these and it raises their eyebrows,” Pittman said.

Outside the universities

In state government outside the university system, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene employee Dr. Linda De Hoyos made the most of all employees. De Hoyos, clinical/medical director at the Thomas B. Finan Hospital Center in Cumberland, is paid $118 an hour and earned $263,326 in 2012.

Dori Henry, a spokeswoman at DHMH, said there is a shortage of psychiatrists nationally and in Maryland. Psychiatric hospitals in particular require round-the-clock physician presence, and the department has a variety of contracts to attract physicians instead of relying solely on salaried doctors, she said.

For instance, some physicians work only “on call” while others have regular hours. Other physicians work at several different institutions and prefer to be contract employees, she said.

“In the rural areas, recruitment of psychiatrists is particularly difficult, so special payment contracts are sometimes used to attract psychiatrists for higher pay but no benefits,” Henry said.

That is the case at the Finan Hospital, where De Hoyos oversees clinical and medical staff, as well as a 22-bed unit. Two other psychiatrists, Dr. Taiwo Okusami and Dr. Sherri Passarell, from DHMH who are in the top five non-university state employees both oversee 22-bed units at the hospital. Although they are hourly employees, DHMH does not offer them additional overtime compensation, Henry said.

The health department employed 258 people who made more than $100,000 in 2012. The university system employed about 4,170 people who make more than $100,000. Judiciary employed 335, Maryland State Police 166 and Department of Transportation 150.

Market rates

Neil Bergsman, director of the Maryland Budget & Tax Institute, who is often aligned with progressive advocates, said that state government employees are not over-compensated.

“You look at your top 10 list outside of higher education and you can see that most of them are in very specialized positions where if you want capable professionals you have to pay them market rates — people running ports and airports and investment operations,” Bergsman said.

The Department of Budget and Management performed a compensation study in 2008 that compared state employee salaries with salaries paid by the federal government, counties and neighboring jurisdictions. The study found that Maryland government employee salaries were about five percent behind market rate in salaries, and comparable to market rate with benefits included, he said.

In the years since 2008, state leaders grappling with the recession implemented furlough days and cut back on expected salary increases, so the study is relatively current, he said.

And Bergsman pointed out not all six-figure jobs are simple desk jobs.

“Just recently the warden positions have edged up to hundred thousand territory,” Bergsman said. “I cannot think of a more stressful, a more responsible job where the consequences of screwing up are worse that pays as little as a hundred thousand or so. It’s astonishing to me that prison wardens do that job for that money.”

Top 10 Paid Non-university Employees 

1. Linda De Hoyos, M.D., clinical/medical director of the Thomas B. Finan Hospital Center, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; $263,326

2. Taiwo Okusami, M.D., psychiatrist/unit director, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; $261,771

3. Paul Weidefeld, executive director, Maryland Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation; $260,858

4. James White, executive director, Maryland Port Administration, Department of Transportation; $257,734

5. Sherri Passarell, M.D., psychiatrist/unit director, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; $255, 669

6. Michael Frenz, executive director, Maryland Stadium Authority; $249,332

7. Ann Moye, chief investment officer, State Retirement Agency; $245,365

8. Kelley Phillips, M.D., psychiatrist and acting clinical director, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Eastern Shore Hospital Center; $241,042

9. Robert Bass, executive director, Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems; $238,852

10. David Fowler, M.D. chief medical examiner, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; $227,088

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