John Gary's pay quandary Anne Arundel County: Report that finds his wife's salary too high complicates the issue.

November 22, 1996

SHELVING A consultant's study is nothing new in government, but it is hard to reconcile the findings contained in a 1994 study on employee compensation in Anne Arundel County government and County Executive John G. Gary's professed disinterest in its conclusions. Considering Mr. Gary's desire to hold down payroll costs, this $150,000 study should be the blueprint for overhauling compensation schedules.

Perhaps Mr. Gary was not interested in the report because he did not commission David M. Griffith & Associates to review county salaries; his predecessor did. Moreover, the first draft was not in keeping with his philosophy of placing a lid on spending by holding down county salaries. DMG & Associates recommended raising county payrolls by $7.5 million. Claiming that the findings were faulty, county personnel officials asked for another draft. The revised report recommended only an increase of $336,000, a finding that should suit Mr. Gary.

Perhaps another reason for the administration to ignore the report is that the initial and revised drafts opined that Ruthanne Gary is overpaid. She is the county's community services director and wife of the county executive, too. Mr. Gary said he doesn't know what the report said about his wife's pay. Nevertheless, the suspicion is that the report was relegated to collect dust on a shelf when it noted that Ms. Gary's annual pay of $65,000 is about $14,000 greater than salaries for similar posts.

County personnel officials downplay the study's importance. Its methodology is weak, they say. In the first draft, DMG & Associates used suburban Washington salary levels, perhaps not comparable. The second draft relied on Baltimore-area compensation comparisons and calls for freezing pay for all but a few positions.

Even though the findings dovetail with Mr. Gary's belief that county workers are compensated fairly, the report has been suppressed. Mr. Gary can ignore the findings, but they are likely to be thrown back at him whenever compensation issues arise. Keeping pay frozen or offering slight raises for rank-and-file county workers will not sit well as long as the executive's wife was judged overpaid and yet still received subsequent raises. Shelving the study won't change that unpleasant perception.

Pub Date: 11/22/96

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