Gary aides may receive pay raises Administration bill denounced by employee unions

'Totally inappropriate'

Dvorak, Minnette also would get pension increases

July 18, 1996|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

A week after warning that Anne Arundel could no longer "baby sit" county workers by offering generous pensions, the Gary administration's No. 2 man is in line to receive a pay raise and increased retirement benefits.

The move to promote Chief Administrative Officer Robert J. Dvorak, which was included in a 23-page administration personnel bill presented to the County Council Monday, was denounced immediately by county-employee unions as inappropriate.

"You can understand why county employees are upset when the lead official promoting the bill stands to get a raise because of it," said LeRoy A. Wilkison, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1563.

The move is part of an administration crusade to reform the personnel system, which accounts for 75 percent of county spending. It comes as the County Council grapples with a plan for an overhaul of the retirement system that would eliminate guaranteed cost-of-living raises and create a less-generous pension plan for new employees.

If approved by the County Council, the personnel bill will open the door for Dvorak to receive a $7,100 raise next year. That would also mean higher pension benefits for him. Dvorak has said that the county's retirement plan is leading it toward financial catastrophe. At $101,361 a year, he is the highest-paid nonelected county employee.

The bill also could lead to a $12,966 raise for County Executive John G. Gary's acting chief of staff, Samuel F. Minnette, by reclassifying his position. Minnette is paid $68,299 a year.

"It's deplorable," said Dennis P. Howell, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 70. "They are not giving employees raises, they are taking away pension benefits, and now they come along and increase the salaries of officials who are the same ones saying employees don't deserve more money."

Most of the bill would formalize what the county's seven %J bargaining units, the administration and the council agreed to during budget negotiations in May. Raises for most of the county's 3,500 employees would be linked to performance, all employees would work a 40-hour week, and the top of the police pay scale would increase 15 percent.

The measure would add $3 million to the county payroll, roughly the same amount that the administration expects to save with its pension reform bill. Finance officials say the proposed pension changes would save the county $3.4 million this year and as much as $6 million a year in the future.

"It's a sham," Wilkison said. "They're trying to take it out of one pocket and put it into someone else's."

The money for the personnel bill was included in this year's $754 million county budget. The pay-scale promotions for Dvorak and Minnette were not discussed publicly before the bill's introduction.

"Those are never a part of negotiations," said E. Hilton Wade, the county's personnel officer. "This is a part of the administration's overall strategy to reform pay and benefits."

Last week, during a public hearing on the administration's pension bill, Dvorak lectured the council, blaming Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson for employee opposition to a series of administration personnel reforms and saying the county was "not the godfather who takes care of everybody."

The administration made no official comment on what audience members described as Dvorak's tirade. But privately, according to several council members, administration officials apologized.

Several council members said yesterday that they were surprised by the Republican administration's attempt to promote two top county officials when its theme has been to roll back benefits. The bill would not give Dvorak and Minnette raises this year but would virtually ensure more pay for them during the fiscal year beginning July 1997.

County employees have not received an across-the-board raise in three years.

Promotions that would lead to raises for appointed officials smack of a double standard, several council members said.

"The timing is totally inappropriate, especially at a time when they are reducing employee benefits and warning that we're heading for a train wreck," said Councilman James E. DeGrange, a Glen Burnie Democrat.

Most council members, bogged down with the pension bill recently, said they had not reviewed the personnel legislation. Asked whether the request for promotions that would enrich top officials comes at an awkward time, council Chairwoman Diane R. Evans, an Arnold Republican, said, "Yes, that would be my first thought."

Last year, Gary proposed raises for six Cabinet-level officials. The chief of staff position, then held by Kenneth Rumsey, was one of the jobs targeted for a pay increase. It was to go from a top salary of $73,610 to a maximum of $101,361.

A public outcry prompted Gary, who campaigned in 1994 for lower personnel costs, to withdraw the proposal.

Lisa Ritter, Gary's spokeswoman, said the personnel bill is consistent with the administration's effort to bring order to an inconsistent pay system. Among the things the bill would address are workweeks that vary by number of hours, inaccurate job descriptions and outdated minimum qualifications for scores positions.

Ritter said Dvorak's position was downgraded several years ago when Robert R. Neall was county executive and would be restored to what it should be.

"The administration is not going to do it hit or miss," Ritter said. "Could there be better timing? I'm certain there could be. But by doing it all at once, the council can see what the administration is doing and how the county executive wants to run his office."

Pub Date: 7/18/96

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