Hires, raises lift mayor's payroll 15%

Dixon's office points to cost of retaining best workers

May 26, 2007|By John Fritze | John Fritze,Sun reporter

By increasing the size of her staff and providing salary bumps to dozens of employees, Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon has increased the payroll of the mayor's office by nearly 15 percent since taking office in January.

Top Dixon administration officials and their aides - about 87 employees in all - are being paid nearly $5 million a year, according to an analysis of payroll data by The Sun. That is up a little more than $640,000 a year from the waning months of Martin O'Malley's mayoral administration.

Dixon became mayor Jan. 17 to serve out the remainder of O'Malley's mayoral term and will seek a full, four-year term in this year's election. At least one of her political opponents questioned the size of Dixon's staff, given that she has not yet been elected to the job. "It's sheer arrogance," City Councilman and mayoral candidate Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. said of the increases.

In addition to increasing the number of people working in the mayor's office, Dixon is paying several senior aides significantly more than the people who served in those positions in O'Malley's administration.

Dixon's chief of staff, for example, makes $150,000 a year, according to payroll data provided by the city. O'Malley's chief of staff made $142,800. Dixon's inspector general receives $120,000, roughly 30 percent more than the salary of O'Malley's inspector general. One of two deputy mayors makes $145,000, which is 9.4 percent more than the highest-paid deputy mayor under O'Malley.

Dixon officials noted that at least a portion of the salary increases were negotiated by O'Malley.

A Dixon spokesman said the administration was concerned about losing employees to Annapolis - a shift that did occur when O'Malley left City Hall for the State House. To stem that tide - and also because Dixon's administration could guarantee only one year of employment, given the election - salary increases were necessary to keep the office functioning, he said.

"Mayor Dixon had to be very aggressive in her recruiting efforts to retain staff in the transition. People were leaving. They were being recruited by the private sector and the state, and she needed to keep them," said the spokesman, Anthony McCarthy. "She has a philosophy of paying people well who she considers to be experts. She has a very ambitious agenda for the time that she is mayor."

But others questioned why the administration needs more staff than O'Malley did less than a year ago.

Payroll records show 29 people were hired in the mayor's office between January and the beginning of April, mostly to replace staff who left city government to take jobs in O'Malley's fledgling gubernatorial administration. An additional 29 employees, who were hired before the transition from O'Malley to Dixon, received raises. An additional five were promoted.

"This typically happens with a new administration. They want to bring their team in, friends, people that have been with them throughout their political career," said Christopher B. Summers, president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute, a conservative think tank. "The real question is, are most of these people qualified to do the jobs that they're doing? Are Baltimore City taxpayers seeing the return on investment?"

Not all senior staff received raises. McCarthy, who is the mayor's chief spokesman, receives $93,600 a year, less than the $122,400 salary that O'Malley's communications director, Stephen Kearney, received.

Christopher Thomaskutty, director of CitiStat - the management accountability program created under O'Malley - makes $105,500, significantly less than the $117,400 salary drawn by Matthew Gallagher, who directed CitiStat under O'Malley.

Dixon makes $125,000 as mayor, a salary that is set by the City Council. The council recently approved raises for elected officials; starting next year, the mayor will receive $148,000.

At least a portion of the payroll increases in Dixon's office are the result of a 2 percent raise that was negotiated between O'Malley and members of the Managerial and Professional Society of Baltimore before Dixon became mayor. The society is a collective bargaining unit that represents thousands of active and retired city managers - 69 of whom are in the mayor's office.

The raises took effect in January.

O'Malley was criticized in 1999 for creating four deputy mayors and seeking hefty raises for his senior staff shortly after taking office. By the end of his tenure, he had only two deputy mayors. One, Michael Enright, O'Malley's longtime adviser, made $130,600. The other, Jeanne Hitchcock, was the city's chief lobbyist and drew a salary of $132,600.

Dixon also has two deputy mayors. Salima S. Marriott, a former state delegate, is paid $110,000 to oversee "community and human development." Andrew B. Frank makes $145,000 and is technically responsible for economic development, though his role in practice is more broad.

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