O'Malley proposes raises for top aides

In return, mayor pledges better product

January 19, 2000|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley is proposing hefty salary increases and boosting the potential pay for his top aides with the promise that his administration will deliver a better product for Baltimore.

At today's Board of Estimates meeting, O'Malley will seek a $21,300 pay increase for Deputy Mayor Jeanne D. Hitchcock, who is responsible for the mayor's legislative agenda in Annapolis and on Capitol Hill, and an increase in the pay scale for all deputy mayors to a maximum $140,000.

Currently, the mayor's top aides, classified as executive assistants to the mayor, can make between $88,000 and $108,700. O'Malley wants to reclassify the jobs and call them deputy mayors with a pay range of $90,000 to $140,000.

In addition, O'Malley said he plans to increase the police commissioner's salary to $137,000 from $115,000. The city's two new deputy police commissioners will earn $120,000 each.

O'Malley's proposed pay increases are yet another departure from his predecessor, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who took a more tight-fisted approach to spending taxpayer money on himself and his staff. Schmoke rejected increases the City Council proposed for his own salary.

"People should be concerned about these salaries," O'Malley said yesterday. "I think that the Baltimore citizens need to hold government officials accountable for the bottom-line efficiency of government. If we have these salary increases and don't do a much better job, I think they should replace us."

The proposed increases for the mayor's staff occur a month after the City Council raised the mayor's salary from $95,000 to $125,000 and approved a $15,000 increase for the council president and city comptroller to $80,000, and an $11,000 increase for council members to $41,400.

Council President Sheila Dixon and Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, two of the estimates board's five voting members, said they would cautiously support the increases. If she had the budget, Dixon said, she also would offer higher salaries to her staff.

"The salaries that are being proposed are somewhat on the high side, but I know in order to attract good people, you have to have good salaries," she said. "We're going to make it very clear that we're going to hold people accountable for the salaries that they get."

Pratt added that as long as the salaries are comparable with what other cities are paying for the same work, she believes that Baltimoreans will support the mayor's salary proposals.

O'Malley said he plans to run a more efficient government that seeks the best people while eliminating unnecessary positions. He said city government has need for top-flight professionals who can help resolve many complex problems -- just as the corporate world does in attracting and paying for good employees.

"Why is the work of 7-Eleven more important than the work of city government?" O'Malley asked, referring to the hiring of Hitchcock, who worked for the convenience store chain's corporate office. "We're trying to save lives. We're trying to keep kids from being poisoned by lead paint."

The mayor said deputy mayors like Hitchcock will perform a wider range of duties than former top aides hired by past mayors.

"It's obvious from their title that they will be able to speak for me," O'Malley said. "They have a lot more responsibility and a lot more authority."

Jesse Hoskins, the city's personnel director, said the city has no specific job description for executive assistants to the mayor. The duties of the new deputy mayors, however, are outlined in a three-page job description.

According to the job description approved Dec. 9, "positions in this class may direct operations in such areas as intergovernmental research, agency operations, policy and communication, economic and neighborhood development and management of the executive branch."

O'Malley will have four deputy mayors. Michael R. Enright, O'Malley's first deputy mayor, and David R. Scott, deputy mayor for operations, will receive $108,700. Hitchcock will receive $130,000. The mayor has yet to fill the fourth deputy position, in which former Downtown Partnership President Laurie Schwartz has been acting. He said he wants Schwartz to remain with his administration, but for now she is on loan for six months from the Downtown Partnership.

The estimates board will consider today the salaries of the deputy mayors and the deputy police commissioners, Edward T. Norris, who was a top police commander in the New York Police Department, and Richard P. Rieman Jr., a former city police lieutenant who retired in 1993 to become a lawyer.

O'Malley plans to seek approval of Police Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel's pay increase at next week's meeting.

Despite the salary increases, O'Malley said, the total cost will be lower than that of past administrations.

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