Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Oklahoma State Agency Heads Get $40,000 to $50,000 Raises -- State Employees No Raises for Eight Years

It is unclear how many other state agency heads may have received large pay increases because agencies are not required to report the pay hikes to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services until August, said John Estus, spokesman for that agency.  Randy Ellis, The Oklahoman, who is a true investigative reporter

Just on the face of it, it is bad PR for the Governor and the Agency Heads but it is business as usual in Oklahoma -- move along nothing to see here.  Without Randy Ellis and his investigative reporting doubt if we would have known.   Almost speechless but not quite.  If I was a State Employee, I would be furious!

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and other Republican office holders chose a Philadelphia Company to do a study on state government agency head salaries in Oklahoma where the cost of living is much lower?  This is who they chose:
Hay Group is a global management consulting firm that works with leaders to transform strategy into reality. We develop talent, organize people to be more effective and motivate them to perform at their best.
Why would they choose the Hay Group out of Philadelphia plus why would any State Agency in Oklahoma give a $40,000 or $50,000 pay raise to anyone when the state employees have received no raise in eight years?  The Governor's Office said -- it is because the study on raises for state employees is not finished.  What a cop-out.  Wish I could take back my vote for 2010.  This is insanity at any level but in the State of Oklahoma where we rank dead last or near last in many categories including teacher salaries.  The State School Superintendent wants to give a $2,000 raise to teachers who are ranked 49th in the nation for pay but after the $2,000 they will still be ranked 49th.  Yet we give the head of Tourism a $40,000 pay increase for being on the job 2 1/2 years.  The best one is the new Secretary of State going from $90,000 to $140,000 a year which is $50,000 salary increase for the former Speaker of the OK House.

Next question -- Where are the Democrat voices in this travesty?  So far I can find no comments out of Democrat Chair Wallace Collins.  I swear Republicans put him in office as he does next to nothing and you never hear a peep out of him no matter how great the travesty.  It is like Oklahoma Democrats have no voice in Oklahoma right now.  Republicans can do whatever they want and the State Democrats don't challenge them.  It is amazing to sit and observe the crickets out of the State Democratic Party. Yet they wonder why people don't switch who are totally fed up with the Republican Party?

To put this in perspective, regular members of Congress are paid $172,000 a year and maintain two residences with DC being very expensive.  Cost of living in OK is relatively cheap compared to other states and the new Secretary of State gets a $50,000 pay raise done by a study out of a firm in PA? You cannot equate salaries of Government employees with the private sector -- it doesn't compute for those that want to compare to oil and gas executive salaries to state Government.  No one deserves this type of pay raise - noted they went for the top amount recommended almost every time.

Where is the accountability to the taxpayers?  The whole process should be transparent and every Oklahoman informed of what the heads of agencies make.  Lt Gov Lamb was right to vote against this IMHO!  He was one of two honest people on the Tourism board appointed by the Governor so no one needs to say that she has no input as she and the legislature appoint the board members.    

State employees haven't had a raise in 8 years, yet the Boards of State Agencies appointed by the Governor are giving $40,000 to $50,000 raises which are obscene to heads of their agencies.  The new Secretary of State who works directly for the Governor is getting a $50,000 raise even though he was just hired.  BTW Chris Benge is the former Speaker of the Oklahoma House.

Oklahoma state legislature is one of the highest paid of surrounding states for four months of session every year and yet get year around healthcare provided by the State.  Thought Democrats were bad when we first moved here but the GOP has caught up and gone around them in wasting taxpayer dollars.  That tax cut never should have happened last session until schools are fully funded, infrastructure is fixed, and state employees get a decent wage among other items.  Discovering ALEC controls this state makes me shake my head.

FYI, Deby Snodgrass, who now heads tourism was part of the original consulting firm of now Congressman Tom Cole, known as Cole, Hargrove, and Snodgrass.  Is the picture clearer?  Anyone involved in politics here knows there are several factions in the GOP from the last Governor's race. Suffice to say that Snodgrass's former partner was not on the same side as the current Governor.

Still stunned at how high these raises are for heads of agencies we know about - who knows how high some others are because they don't have to report until August 2014.
Oklahoma agency heads granted five-digit pay increases 
Oklahoma Tourism Executive Director Deby Snodgrass was granted a $40,000 pay increase last week, making her the latest of several state agency heads to be awarded huge salary increases and sparking criticism from the Oklahoma Public Employees Association. 
By Randy Ellis Modified: October 28, 2013 at 9:51 pm • Published: October 28, 2013 
Oklahoma Tourism Executive Director Deby Snodgrass was granted a $40,000 pay increase last week, making her the latest of several state agency heads to be awarded five-digit salary increases and sparking criticism from the Oklahoma Public Employees Association.

Tom Dunning, communications coordinator for the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, said the raises are frustrating to rank-and-file state employees — many of whom have gone years without raises and been told by lawmakers that they would have to await the results of a compensation study due out in November before they would be given pay hike consideration. 
“These raises should only happen after the study is released and the state begins addressing front line staff pay,” Dunning said. “Raising top administrators' pay while their staff waits sends a message to staff that the top jobs are important and the other jobs are not. This just further demoralizes state agency staff, many of whom have not had a raise in years.” 
Besides Snodgrass, other state agency heads confirmed by The Oklahoman to have received large pay increases this year include Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Director Stan Florence, whose pay was increased by nearly $47,000 in June; Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Commissioner Terri White, whose salary was raised by nearly $40,000 in September; and state Banking Commissioner Mick Thompson, whose salary was raised by about $14,000 in May. 
Florence's salary went from $80,138 to $127,000, White's salary rose from $133,455 to $173,318, and Thompson's salary went from $137,239 to about $151,000. 
In addition, the salary of Oklahoma's secretary of state was raised from $90,000 to $140,000 when Gov. Mary Fallin announced last week that she had appointed former House Speaker Chris Benge to succeed Larry Parman in that position, said Michael McNutt, the governor's press secretary. 
It is unclear how many other state agency heads may have received large pay increases because agencies are not required to report the pay hikes to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services until August, said John Estus, spokesman for that agency. 
The Tourism Commission voted 5-2 last week to raise Snodgrass' salary from about $86,000 to $126,508. 
Snodgrass said she was grateful for the raise. 
“I am humbled and grateful to the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commissioners for the trust and faith they have placed in me,” she said. “They have decided to increase my compensation to the midpoint established in the OMES Human Capital Management Division's Agency Director Salary Review.” 
“Tourism is a $7.1 billion industry in Oklahoma and continues to experience significant growth, year over year. It is the state's third-largest industry. I am honored to serve in this position and help fine tune this vital economic engine so the industry can go further and faster toward revenue increases and job growth that benefits all Oklahomans.” 
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb cast one of the two votes against the pay increase. Lamb, who serves as chairman of the commission, said his vote was “no reflection on the job of the director or the tourism staff.” 
“They work very hard for the people, but I believe we should be very diligent in how we spend taxpayers' money,” Lamb said. “At this time with our state budget, and also with the current study that is taking place … with all the state employees, that gave me a little pause. And a greater pause and concern that I have is that we're currently in the middle of a state trooper shortage … and the trooper pay in the state is significantly low compared to the region.” 
Law enforcement is a “core function” of government and should get top consideration, he said. 
Many of this year's executive pay increases are linked to a study of agency director salaries done by the Hay Group, a consulting firm retained by the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services to recommend maximum and minimum salaries for each position. The Legislature directed the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to have the study done in HB 1717. 
Read More at The Oklahoman about this travesty
Going to take a while to get over this because it makes little to no sense to give that big of raises to state employees.  It is like taxpayer dollars are being used to buy support for the Governor's re-election campaign by making sure the agency heads are very well paid in a state with a low cost of living.  Note to boards -- Oklahoma is not on the east or west coast with high cost of living but you just gave out huge raises like we are.

Most people I have talked with since I found this last night are appalled and asking why would Oklahoma do this when they refuse to fully fund education or or infrastructure.  The Governor won't even allow a bond to be put to the vote of the people to provide safe rooms in our schools but she has no problem with huge pay raises for her appointees.  Something is wrong!

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