Mayor seeks boost in top pay

$160,000 ceiling OK'd for category applying to aides

January 25, 2001|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley is moving to increase the potential pay of his top aides for the second time in his year-old administration, winning Board of Estimates approval yesterday to create new top salary ranges that reach $160,000.

Two deputy mayors make at or near the current maximum of $140,000 a year - Deputy Mayor Laurie Schwartz at $140,000 and Deputy Mayor Jeanne D. Hitchcock at $130,000. Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris is paid $137,000 annually.

O'Malley said that he wants to have the flexibility to pay up to $160,000 and that salary is "a constant frustration in attracting people" to Baltimore. He said the new salary scale would help with a current job search.

"As we try to find somebody with a transportation and engineering background to come and address a real pressing need that this city has, to jump-start a transportation department," the mayor said, "we're not even advertising the salary for fear that we wouldn't have a shot at even getting anybody into the city to try and sell them on a position."

The new top salary class approved yesterday, "Executive Level III," has a pay range of $100,000 to $160,000 a year. Employees of the city's quasi-public agencies, who can earn higher salaries, would not be affected.

The O'Malley administration must return to the Board of Estimates with a list of which employees would be in the top pay class, but the new classification won't necessarily translate into pay raises for them.

The boosts in potential pay come a year after O'Malley was criticized by a few state legislators and others for seeking similar increases only a month into his new administration, in a city with perennial budget problems.

Now, with the city facing an estimated budget shortfall of $28 million for next fiscal year, at least one of those legislators is still critical.

"It's a terrible idea. There are times when you have to be fiscally prudent, when you're facing a budget deficit," said Del. Brian K. McHale, a South Baltimore Democrat. "I can't imagine paying the people who are in his administration $160,000. I can't imagine paying them $140,000.

"Maybe I'm not familiar with what's paid in the private sector, but I would think that $140,000 in the private sector is a pretty high level of pay," he said.

Mayoral spokesman Tony White said McHale was "just wrong," and noted that Schwartz, the highest-paid deputy mayor, took a $20,000 pay cut from her job at the Downtown Partnership.

The city's top salaries compare well with the salaries of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's top aides - not to mention Glendening and O'Malley themselves.

Glendening's chief of staff, Major F. Riddick Jr., makes $154,640 a year; his top budget officer is paid $133, 281; and his secretary of transportation makes $128,273. Glendening's salary is $120,000, and O'Malley's is $125,000.

The new category is part of a larger effort to place about 175 O'Malley staffers in three broad pay classifications, one with salaries from $50,000 to $80,000 a year, another with salaries from $70,000 to $120,000 and the top classification with salaries up to $160,000. All three were approved yesterday.

In other action, the Board of Estimates also approved hiring John Carroll Weiss III as executive director for the new Parking Authority of Baltimore City. Weiss will be paid $100,000 a year.

Sun staff writer Thomas W. Waldron contributed to this article.

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