Should Ethics Director Johnson Get a Raise?
A pay raise for the Ethics Director? This question has recently entered the public sphere.
Shortly after the Palm Beach County Ethics Commission was formed this year, Alan Johnson was hired in April as the Commission’s Executive Director. ( Press Release ) Mr. Johnson had been senior counsel for the Public Integrity Unit of the State Attorney’s Office.
At the time, the ethics ordinances had been in place for a few months, and discussion had already begun on the ballot initiative to bring the cities under the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction, so it should be a surprise to no one that the measure passed and the scope of the Commission will be expanded, subject to the charter amendments that are to be written.
With expanded scope, larger budget and staff, Mr. Johnson has made it known that he would like a larger salary than the $118,000 plus benefits that was offered and accepted in April. Several Commissioners support this concept, suggesting that it was their plan all along. Commissioner Fiore went so far as to say they knew they were “underpaying” Johnson.
See the article on the subject by Andy Reid in the Sun Sentinel HERE
With the exception of the Fire/Rescue and PBSO employees who are compensated under a union contract, few if any county employees have had a raise in quite some time. Is it fair then to give Mr. Johnson a raise after only a few months on the job?
Let’s examine the facts.
In the database of county salaries (PBSO is excluded), Mr. Johnson’s $118,000 salary places him at number 328 in the total pay hierarchy when all county employees are considered. (Of course most of that list are firefighters – remember that their average compensation is currently about $140K. As a matter of fact, 69% of those earning more than Mr. Johnson are the 225 Captains and Chiefs and the like in Fire/Rescue). When only the county staff are considered, he would be number 103.
If PBSO were included in the comparison, there are an addtional 209 employees with total pay above $118K, so that would put Mr. Johnson at number 537 in the hierarchy.
Just above that level are the Assistant Director of Roads and Bridges, and the Assistant Director of Libraries. Just below that level is the Director of HCD and a title called “Fiscal Manager II”.
If you were to compare Mr. Johnson’s salary to the private sector, for an advise and consent, administrative job with 2 employees reporting to him, $118,000 is a lot. For the county though, where the compensation is plush and comfortable, maybe it is an outlier.
As a taxpayer, I believe that all the county salaries and benefits have reached levels that are unjustifiable and there should be a public outcry – particularly about Fire/Rescue. For Director Johnson though, I do believe he should make more than the Assistant Director of Libraries, and it is unfair to single him out for scrutiny when the rest of the county coasts by out of the public eye.
So yes – Alan Johnson should get a raise when the scope of the job expands to cover the cities. It would be premature for the Commission to act prior to that time however, since the job was offered and accepted at the current level, and the scope has not yet changed.