Howard officials' pay is among area's highest Three making more than $100,000 a year

October 12, 1997|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

Because of erroneous information provided by the Baltimore County personnel office, the salary of Executive Officer Michael H. Davis was incorrect in Sunday's editions of The Sun. It is $103,000.

The Sun regrets the error.

Howard County may not have the population of its larger neighbors, but recent raises have made the paychecks of its top administrators among the biggest in the Baltimore area.

Three Howard officials have salaries topping $100,000, and 17 have salaries higher than the $86,375 earned by County Executive Charles I. Ecker, a Republican who proposed the raises as part of a personnel overhaul that took effect two weeks ago.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Ecker's salary, set by county code, was unchanged. But his role in giving Howard some of the top salaries in the region could come back to haunt him as he runs for governor as a fiscal conservative.

"I think what amazes me about this is these guys think we have the kind of population that Montgomery and [Prince George's] County have," said David Maier, former president of the Howard County Taxpayers Association. "I shake my head when I see this kind of stuff."

Topping the list of Howard County salaries are Public Works Director James M. Irvin at $108,020 and County Solicitor Barbara M. Cook at $107,184.

Both earn more than any official of Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford or Carroll counties. That comparison includes only general county government, not school or state's attorney's offices, which often have higher salaries.

Howard had 224,000 residents last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Baltimore County had 718,000, and Anne Arundel had 466,000. Harford and Carroll counties had smaller populations than Howard's.

Ecker bristled at the suggestion that his top officials are (P overpaid, noting that Washington-area counties such as Montgomery and Prince George's pay more.

"I think they're comparable for the Baltimore-Washington area," Ecker said of the Howard salaries.

He also said the higher salaries for his top appointees were not raises.

The bigger paychecks came from a personnel overhaul that standardized a 40-hour workweek for county office workers, who formerly worked 35 hours each week. Ecker gave salary increases of 14 percent to compensate workers for the extra five hours of work.

The county's top officials, who routinely work more than 40 hours each week, benefited from that change because their salaries were based on a supposed 35-hour week.

Ecker at first proposed that top officials receive the full 14 percent raises, even though their hours worked were unlikely to change.

But shortly before the new personnel system went to a vote by the County Council, Ecker cut the proposed amount of the raises for top officials to about 7 percent.

The change, which passed a few weeks later, increased the average paycheck for Ecker's 12 department heads from $84,930 to $91,843.

"That certainly wasn't a pay raise, and to characterize it as such is misleading," Ecker said.

The new system also raises the ceiling on top salaries. Under the old system, the top salary possible was $105,711, a level never reached because it was available only to the chief administrative officer and only after many years of county experience.

The new top salary -- which also has not yet reached -- is $123,323.

Chief Administrative Officer Raquel Sanudo, a leading drafter of Ecker's personnel overhaul, makes $103,001 under the new system, up from $94,456.

The salary increases for all county employees are expected to cost $3.75 million to $4.8 million in the first year of the new system.

Howard's top salaries

James M. Irvin, public works director, $108,020

Barbara M. Cook, county solicitor, $107,184

Raquel Sanudo, chief administrative officer, $103,001

James N. Robey, police chief, $98,719

Top salaries in other counties

Baltimore County: Michael H. Davis, executive officer, $106,033

Harford: Larry Klimovitz, director of administration, $93,991.

Anne Arundel: Thomas C. Andrews, chief administrative officer, $92,146

Carroll: Robert A. Blair, chief of staff, $77,610

Montgomery: Bruce Romer, chief administrative officer, $133,100

Prince George's: Howard W. Stone Jr., chief administrative officer, $120,000

Pub Date: 10/12/97

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