front page - editorial archives  - search - community 

Obscene pay, poor services donít add up
(Published November 6, 2000)

NEWS ITEM: D.C. General Hospital and its parent Public Benefit Corp. (PBC) face financial crisis.

NEWS ITEM: Members of Congress work themselves into hysterics over compensation package of PBCís chief executive officer, John Fairman, whose base annual salary is $145,000 a year.

NEWS ITEM: Mayor Tony Williams replaces five appointees on the PBC Board of Directors, who promptly put Fairman on administrative leave and lay off almost two dozen administrative employees.

NEWS ITEM: Severity of the financial crisis prompts talk of mass layoffs, major downsizing of the cityís only public hospital, congressional interference with PBCís funding and eventual firing of CEO Fairman.

NEWS ITEM: PBC Board hires new CEO Michael Barch at a salary of $250,000 a year, exceeding the former CEOís pay by more than $100,000.

QUESTION: Whatís wrong with this picture?

Here are a few hints:

-The President of the United States is paid $200,000 a year.

-Barchís salary makes him the highest-paid public employee in the District of Columbia, with his quarter-million dollar salary exceeding the $225,000 taxpayers are paying health director Dr. Ivan Walks.

-Until Congress in 1995 declared the city to be in such monumental financial crisis that it required creation of a control board --effectively ending local residentsí control over their tax dollars --the mayor was deemed to be the cityís highest-paid employee at a salary of less than $100,000 a year.

-Since the inception of the control board, salaries of all D.C. department and agency heads --as well as some lower-echelon managers --have soared to $100,000 and above.

Figured it out yet?

If not, try driving any number of D.C. streets that --despite promises ad nauseum --remain riddled with poorly patched cuts. Or ask the city workers who still canít get accurate paychecks. Or try to find the appropriate phone number to call when your recyclables donít get picked up on schedule. (Good luck when it comes to getting a correct phone number for a city office when you ask the Mayorís Call Center at 727-1000 or look in the current phone book.)

Financial crisis? When it comes to our public hospital, which provides medical services to almost half of the cityís poor and uninsured, yes. Officials canít seem to find the resources to maintain a critically necessary public institutionís services, yet they have NO problem finding big bucks to pay a top administrator. Go figure.

It is unclear what benefits D.C. taxpayers are deriving from such profligate salaries for public officials. Do these benefits outweigh -- or even equal -- the cost?

One thing IS clear: D.C. taxpayers are being saddled with obscenely high salaries for many officials who canít seem to deliver basic services much better -- or even ANY better -- than their lower-paid predecessors.

Copyright © 2000 The Common Denominator