ROCKVILLE – County Executive Ike Leggett says Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal is making a mountain out of a molehill and created a “straw person issue” when he set out to probe whether high-level managers make too much money.
“It was created to become a problem,” Leggett said.
Montgomery County’s Office of Legislative Oversight released a report comparing salaries for high-level County managers Tuesday.
The OLO’s Comparative Data on High-Level Manager Salaries was requested by Leventhal to determine if the County is adequately paying appropriate and competitive salaries to high-level managers.
“My view is this was to highlight publicity,” said Leggett.
The report comes after several people in the County were given salaries of more than $200,000 earlier this year.
Leventhal mentioned that county executive spokesperson Patrick Lacefield, who is his brother-in-law, had a salary of $182,288 in 2014.
“George has his job,” said Lacefield. “I have mine. I guess we’ll sort this out over family Thanksgiving dinner.”
Leventhal said the report shows the executive branch should be more cautious when offering salaries.
The annual salaries for the management positions reviewed by OLO totals $58.3 million, representing 4.6 percent of full-time positions and 8.9 percent of full-time salary costs approved in the fiscal year 2016 operating budget.
There are 9,174 full-time positions in Montgomery County government, totaling $655.5 million in salary costs.
The County’s average director’s salary is the highest in the Washington-Baltimore region, with an average of $206,000, the report shows.
According to the report, the County pays 9.5 percent more than Baltimore County, whose average director’s salary is $186,973.
The report notes Fairfax managers have an average of $169,623, a 17.9 percent difference between Fairfax and Montgomery County.
Leventhal said there is no reason to offer an individual, who is willing to take $165,000 a year, a $190,000 salary because it is wasting the taxpayer’s money.
According to county database dataMontgomery, County council members make $113,310 annually, and the council president earns just under $125,000.
The next council will receive a raise during each year of its four-year term.
According to Bill 28-13, council members’ salaries will increase to $120,675 on Dec. 7, to $128,675 a year later and then to $136,258 in 2017.
The council president will continue to receive the 10 percent more each year.
In September 2013, the Compensation Committee, consisting of seven people, recommended those increases in council members’ salaries.
According to the U.S. Consensus Bureau 2009-2013 report, the per capita income in the past year for 2013 is $49,038 for the County.
“I could not take a pay cut because it is set by law,” said Council member Sidney Katz (D-3).
He said the previous County council voted on what it thought was a fair and reasonable salary.
He said he works more than 40 hours a week and in some cases seven days a week and that his full-time staff may work more than 40 hours.
Council member Marc Elrich (D) said if the committee found the council was being paid too much, he would go along with what it said.
The committee did not conclude that, though, he said.
Elrich said he usually works between 50 and 60 hours.
“It seems like we are paying more than we need to,” Elrich said.
“We need to figure out the proper amount of pay versus the actual amount of work doing something,” Katz said.
According to dataMontgomery, Leggett’s salary was $190,000 for 2014.Katz said the council needs more background information regarding the report.
He said the report needs to compare people who have worked for the same amount of time and the same job title with the same responsibilities.
People may have the same title, their responsibilities could differ, he said.
Leggett said this report did not go through the proper procedure before it was released.
He said draft reports go through the Executive Branch to be reviewed and commented on before a final report is released.
“The report has a lot of issues,” Leggett said.
He said this does not affect any of the employees right now, it has little impact on the budget and it is a poorly drafted analysis.
Managers, who are already working for the County, will not be affected by this because their contracts already specify a salary, he said. A negotiation between employers and potential hire will discuss salary requirements.
Leggett said this does not drive the budget because it makes up less than one percent of the budget cost.
He also pointed out the salary structure in the County has been in place for 20 years and there have been no complaints about it, he said.
“It’s comparing oranges to apples,” Leggett said.
Total compensation such as benefits that include a pension is not reported, Leggett said.
This defined benefit allows employees to receive a guaranteed amount of money after they retire compared to a 401K that does not guarantee any money.
Leggett said the report compared the number of department heads in the County with Fairfax and District of Columbia, showing the county is doing more with less. He said the County has 27 department heads, which is smaller than Fairfax, who has 39 people.
The executive branch received the report last week and are working to analyze the report, he said. They will make comments on anything that catches their attention, Leggett said.
He noted the managers are doing more with less and is not sure if the managers are being overpaid. Unlike the other jurisdictions compared in the report, County employees do not have a pension or a guaranteed mount of money when a person retires. Pension plans were done away with four years ago because it was cheaper for the County, Leggett said.
Department heads are taking a bigger risk with their jobs, he said. They can be fired at any time and have no defined benefits that will help them, he said.
“The report might show we are paying people slightly less,” Leggett said.
Leventhal said he is thinking about introducing the salary decrease as a bill, but there is no decision as whether this will happen.
The council is set to hold a meeting on Nov. 17 to discuss the report.