[UPDATED 11/1: See Treasurer/Tax Collector information below.]
Many Humboldt County employees made more money last year than the stated maximum salaries for their positions, including several workers whose incomes were more than twice the amounts listed for their job titles, according to newly released information from the State Controller's Office.
Thanks to a salary scandal in the City of Bell, Controller John Chiang this week unveiled a website that lists the salaries, pension benefits and other compensation for more than 594,000 city and county employees throughout California. Chiang noted the importance of public scrutiny, saying that, "The absence of transparency and accountability invites corruption, self-dealing and the abuse of public funds."
A search of Humboldt reveals that more than 70 county employees earned six-figure incomes last year, with the top wage-earner -- a physician/psychiatrist working in the Mental Health Department -- hauling in nearly a quarter of a million dollars ($246,255). Three physician/psychiatrists ended up making more last year than the director of the Health and Human Services Department, Phillip Crandall. Nevertheless, Crandall's 2009 salary somehow exceeded $215,000 despite the fact that his position's maximum annual salary is listed as $161,692 -- a difference of more than 50 grand.
And Crandall wasn't alone. The county's 2009 personnel director, Rick Haeg, earned $208,142, which exceeds that position's stated max by more than $90,000. An information technology analyst somehow doubled his/her stated salary max of $70,515, taking in a total of $143,597 in 2009. And three deputy sheriffs managed the same feat -- each earning in excess of $111,000 when their annual salary max is less than half that amount: $55,780.
Asked how public employees can earn more than their theoretical maximum salaries, County Administrative Officer Phillip Smith-Hanes said there can be a number of contributing factors. For example, he said, when an employee retires (as was the case with Haeg last year), he or she collects unused vacation time and may receive other deferred compensation. Employees in law enforcement and nursing can earn incentives for overtime, shift differentials (ie. working the night shift) and professional certificates. And many positions reward longevity, Smith-Hanes said.
Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Brenda Godsey echoed those statements, saying the three eyebrow-raising salaries for deputy sheriffs last year likely represent payouts for retirees.
The reported numbers also shed a light on rising pension costs. One hundred seventeen county employees received $10,000 or more from the county in pension benefits last year with hundreds more employees in the four-digit range.
The salaries of county supervisors have been the subject of controversy this year, with the Grand Jury recommending a salary reduction in April. The report lists the supes' 2009 salaries ranging from $71,437 to $85,078. (Names are not attached to any of the salaries in the report.) Shockingly, the maximum listed salary for a Humboldt County Supervisor, according to the report, is $150,291. Smith-Hanes said that was a mistake; the actual max is $81,576.
Some other county employee incomes of note:
District Attorney Paul Gallegos -- $147,794 (listed salary max, $150,291)
An employment/training manager -- $144,625 (listed salary max, $85,230)
Sheriff Gary Philp -- $130,559 (max, $150,291)
Public Works Director Tom Mattson -- $129,367 (max, $117,044)
Assistant District Attorney Wes Keat -- $124,903 (max, $113,256)
Auditor/Controller Michael Giacone -- $119,909 (max, $150,291)
Treasurer/Tax Collector Stephen Strawn John Bartholomew -- $118,869 (max, $150,291) [John Bartholomew took over from Strawn on May 25, then won the June 8 election to serve the next term. His current salary is $111,128.]
Assessor Linda Hill -- $117,178 (max, $150,291)
Recorder Carolyn Crnich -- $117,178 (max, $150,291)