College coaches, university doctors earn highest state salaries

More than 1,300 university employees out-earn the governor

May 23, 2011|By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun

If Gov. Martin O'Malley wants to make some real money when his second term ends, he might want to apply for work at the University System of Maryland.

The great majority of the 1,346 workers who match or beat the governor's $150,000 annual salary, including the 15 highest earners, work for the university system, according to a Baltimore Sun analysis of state employee salaries for 2010. Most of the exceptions are doctors with the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, a few judges and a scattering of others.

But even some of O'Malley's Cabinet members made more than he did. State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick earned $190,125. State Police Superintendent Col. Terrence B. Sheridan took home $160,788. Former Health Secretary John M. Colmers made $159,144.

Long-serving officials below Cabinet rank also topped the governor's pay. Warren Deschenaux, the General Assembly's top fiscal analyst, earned $153,706. Neil Pedersen, chief planner for the State Highway Administration, made $152,878.

Retiring Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams was the highest-paid state employee in 2010, with $2.3 million in total compensation. That included a base salary of $450,869 and additional earnings from television and radio appearances, camps and academic and performance incentives.

Former Terps football coach Ralph Friedgen earned $1.1 million, including a base salary of $280,842. The university has not disclosed what their replacements are earning.

The next-highest earners were physicians in leadership at the university. Dr. E. Albert Reece, dean of the medical school and vice president for medical affairs, made $757,489. Dr. Stephen Bartlett, chief of surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center, took home $737,243. Dr. Bartley Griffith, chief of cardiac surgery and cardiothoracic transplantation, earned $703,175.

"You're talking about superstars here," University of Maryland Regent Francis X. Kelly said. "I think to the average citizen, these salaries would look high in some cases, but in other states, they're not so high."

To get the $800 million in research grants the Maryland system attracts, the flagship system must have the best people, he said.

Health care and social assistance make up the largest sector of the Maryland economy, employing one in nine workers, according to the state Department of Business and Economic Development.

A spokesman for the University of Maryland, Baltimore said it was important to note that taxpayers cover only a portion of the salary earned by the hospital physicians. Two-thirds of the University of Maryland, Baltimore budget last year came from research and clinical services, spokesman Ed Fischel said. Karen Robinson, a spokewoman for the School of Medicine, said that less than 10 percent of the school's budget comes from tax money.

A spokesman for O'Malley said the governor — an attorney who runs a $34 billion operation with nearly 88,000 employees — has no beef with making far less than medical and academic stars.

"The governor certainly isn't concerned about how his salary ranks among state employees," spokesman Shaun Ademec said. "His interest is in ensuring that those who serve our state earn what they make by serving the greater interest."

If O'Malley's pay seems puny next to that of high-ranking state university officers, it's no accident, political scientist Donald F. Norris said.

"It's what the market demands," said Norris — a state employee himself, as professor and chairman of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

While top university system posts must pay well to be competitive, he said, equally high pay for elected officials wouldn't fly with voters.

"They're not going to set [the governor's pay] at $750,000 because there would be a huge public outcry," Norris said, even though the governor runs a "very, very large enterprise."

"There's nothing in the state that equals that."

Republican lawmakers have attempted to limit the pay of some state workers. The budget proposed by GOP delegates this year would have limited the salaries of executive branch employees to no more than $1 less than that of the governor.

"He's the top executive of the state, and his salary is limited," House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell said. In general, he said, subordinates should not make more.

There might be exceptions for people like those who run the university system professional schools, "but those should be the rare exception," he said.

Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, the Baltimore/Howard County Democrat who chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, doesn't find the high university pay unusual.

"Most of them are physicians of some kind," he said. "You'd expect them to be making more than $125,000 or $150,000."

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