Gary's plan to raise staff pay angers unions Labor fight would be second this year

September 03, 1996|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

For the second time this year, County Executive John G. Gary is risking a fight with county labor unions by moving to increase the salaries of his executive staff while denying raises to rank-and-file workers.

The Republican administration's second personnel bill this year will come before the County Council tonight.

The 23-page measure contains, among an array of technical changes, a proposal to increase the top salaries for five executive-level employees by 1 percent to 15 percent. The employees in question range from a receptionist to a senior management assistant who works directly for Gary.

The top pay for the same executive jobs was nominally increased in April under the Gary administration's first personnel bill this year. That measure, which passed despite full-throated protests from county labor unions, extended the workweek of all 3,500 full-time county employees to 40 hours without increasing pay, and tied future pay raises to job performance.

The administration acknowledges that the first personnel bill did not address discrepancies between executive staff salaries and those earned by general county employees who do essentially the same work.

"This is a more scientific approach," said E. Hilton Wade, the county's personnel officer. "No one is getting more than anyone else in the county doing the same job. There would be no windfall for working on the executive staff."

Wade said that bringing executive salaries in line with those of general county employees is the first step toward making them appointed positions, serving at the discretion of the county executive. Gary has been the subject of a county ethics investigation into whether he hired former campaign workers for executive staff positions without following civil service hiring procedures.

But labor leaders, who have been fighting a bill to recast the county's $750 million retirement system, say the measure is another example of an administration personnel policy that treats the executive staff and general employees unequally. General county employees have not received an across-the-board pay raise in three years.

"Nothing changes except for the mechanism the administration uses to take from the employees at the lower level," said Dennis P. Howell, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 70. "Once again the sweat equity of the general employees provides the means and resources to finance government operation at the executive level and services at the county level."

The personnel bill is part of an administration campaign to rein in the county's pay and benefit costs, which account for 75 percent of Anne Arundel's spending. Gary campaigned in 1994 on a platform that made personnel reform a priority.

The bill would make five employees on Gary's staff eligible for annual raises of $223 to $5,524. The pay increases could be granted immediately. For four of the five "salary grades" in question, the minimum salary would decrease slightly.

The measure also contains provisions that would increase the top salary for Chief Executive Officer Robert J. Dvorak, the county's highest-paid employee, and Gary's acting chief of staff, Samuel F. Minnette. The two top aides would be eligible for raises of about 7 percent and 20 percent respectively next year. Dvorak, who makes $101,361 a year, would receive a $7,100 raise. Minnette, who makes $68,299 a year, would receive a $12,966 raise.

County labor leaders have characterized the potential pay increases as "deplorable." But Wade said the bill is more administration "fine tuning" of an inconsistent and costly personnel code.

"No one can quibble," he said. "We are just bringing salaries in line with what they should be."

Pub Date: 9/03/96

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