Under Bowser, top D.C. officials continue to pull in big salaries

Under Bowser, top D.C. officials continue to pull in big salaries

By Mike DeBonis, Washington Post, January 29

When it comes to D.C. politics, it pays to be close to the mayor, make no mistake about it.

New salary data released Wednesday shows that top aides to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) are pulling in hefty salaries, some of them rivaling the $200,000 yearly mayoral salary, much as close advisers to former mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) did.

City Administrator Rashad M. Young is the best-compensated employee in the John A. Wilson Building, earning the same $295,000 that predecessor Allen Y. Lew did. Two other members of Bowser’s inner circle are earning salaries close to $200,000: Chief of Staff John Falcicchio and Senior Adviser Beverly L. Perry are both making $198,500.

Falcicchio is earning a 4 percent premium over the $190,003 earned by Gray’s chief of staff, Christopher Murphy. There is no direct comparison for Perry’s salary, but a similarly influential figure in the Gray administration — Lew deputy Warren Graves, who has since left city government — made nearly $205,000.

Otherwise, the new data shows salaries for top Bowser administration officials are generally in line with the pay earned by their Gray administration counterparts. Four years ago, however, Gray came under sharp criticism for paying some of his appointees a good deal more than their predecessors had earned under Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).

Until Wednesday, Bowser had initially declined to give salary figures for her appointees, saying only that they would be paid in line with previous pay levels.

Deputy Mayor for Education Jennifer C. Niles is earning $190,000, while Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Brenda Donald is earning $196,000 — both slightly less than what their predecessors earned. Deputy City Administrator Kevin Donahue is earning $185,000, less than the $196,266 made by former Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Paul Quander, many of whose duties Donahue is assuming.

Other Bowser aides are making less than their Gray administration counterparts. Budget director Matthew Brown is earning $170,000, less than the $177,662 made by Gray’s budget chief, Eric Goulet — and also less than the $175,100 Brown was making in his previous job as Gray’s transportation director. Deputy Chief of Staff Lindsey Parker is making $147,000, compared to the $175,048 earned by Sheila Bunn, who held the same title in Gray’s office. And Communications Director Michael Czin is earning $125,000, compared with the $144,200 made by Doxie McCoy, Gray’s last communications chief.

None of the agency directors held over from the Gray administration saw a bump in pay, but former Department of the Environment director Keith A. Anderson went from $169,744 in his old job, with Gray, to $178,231 in his current post as interim director of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

New environment director Tommy Wells is earning $167,000 — a $34,000 bump over his previous salary as a D.C. Council member.

In the aggregate, the 94 employees listed as working for Bowser in the mayor’s office, in the city administrator’s office or on the staffs of the various deputy mayors are earning an average of $99,399. The 78 employees listed as working in those offices in the waning days of the Gray administration earned an average salary of $114,185.

The new salary data shows that 20 District employees are earning more than Bowser’s $200,000 salary, but of the 20, only Young was hired by Bowser.

Others earning above the mayoral pay grade include medical doctors at the city-run St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital and several agency heads who were serving prior to Bowser’s inauguration — including James Lyons, interim president of the University of the District of Columbia ($303,850), Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson ($275,000), Chief Medical Examiner Roger Mitchell ($253,000), Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier ($240,743) and Director of Forensic Sciences Max Houck ($209,219).

The new employment data also documents a time-honored tradition: The filling of lower-level patronage jobs in the mayor’s office and in key city agencies by political allies. Veterans of Bowser’s campaign and council office now hold various positions in the Executive Office of the Mayor and in the deputy mayors’ offices.

In addition, former Bowser council aides Joy Holland, Judi Gold and James Bulger now have posts in the District secretary’s office, and two Bowser campaign aides have been placed in agencies whose directors have yet to be named: Jason Washington is a special assistant in the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, making a $98,000 salary, and LeJuan Strickland is chief of staff in the Department of Employment Services, earning $105,000.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.

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