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Taking note . . .

Observations about public affairs in the nation's capital

by the editor of The Common Denominator

LUCRATIVE PUBLIC SERVICE: Once upon a time, "serving the public" in a government job signified some level of personal sacrifice - all for the public good. Performance bonuses? Severance pay? Salaries competitive with the private sector? Those terms weren't part of the parlance for public servants. In fact, it wasn't that long ago when D.C. government employees couldn't be paid more than the mayor - who never made more than $100,000 a year until Mayor Tony Williams took office in 1999.

Enter the congressionally created control board in the mid-1990s and D.C. government salaries suddenly skyrocketed. Remember the control board? It was supposed to wrest control of rampant government spending. Instead, it gave us a slew of senior government managers who should be ashamed that their paychecks are so much fatter than the average D.C. taxpayer who pays their salaries.

While much has been said in recent months about the hundreds of D.C. workers whose annual salaries exceed $100,000, little attention has been paid to the executive bonuses Mayor Williams has bestowed upon his political appointees. Bonuses awarded in fiscal 2000 and 2001 to 28 Senior Executive Service workers - the top echelon of the Williams administration - totaled $360,364, according to figures provided by the Office of Personnel.

At the top of the taxpayers' trough was former D.C. Health Director Ivan Walks, who pulled down $33,600 in bonus pay during those two years, in addition to his $200,000 annual salary. Next in line was Corrections Department Director Odie Washington, who received back-to-back $13,000 bonuses in those years.

Chief Technology Officer Suzanne Peck's bonuses totaled $23,791, and three others exceeded the $20,000 mark: Special Counsel for Receiverships Grace Lopes at $21,223, Police Chief Charles Ramsey at $21,000 and Planning Director Andy Altman at $20,228.

Close behind were former Department of Motor Vehicles Director Sherryl Hobbs Newman at $17,971, Deputy Mayor for Children and Families Carolyn Graham at $17,027 and Transportation Director Dan Tangherlini at $16,518.

A spokesman for the personnel office said no bonuses were paid in fiscal 2002 due to the city's economic downturn.

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator