Editor’s note: The information contained in this story was received via printouts from the Louisiana Department of Civil Service of those earning $100,000 or more for the years 2009 through 2012. Each year was listed separately. Accordingly, when the name of Patti Gonzalez of the Office of Risk Management did not appear until the 2012 printout, the indication was she had received a pay increase. This was not the case and there was no explanation as to why she did not appear in prior years but Ms. Gonzalez says she has not received an increase since March of 2010.
Likewise, no state elected officials received pay increases as their salaries are set in statute. Civil Service printouts did indicate pay increases for all but two statewide elected officials but this apparently was in error.
Rank and file state civil service employees have gone without pay increases, merit or otherwise, since 2009 but at least 104 managers, directors, supervisors and five statewide elected officials already making in excess of $100,000 a year have received increases over the past three years.
Not included in the tabulation were doctors, nurses, pharmacists, higher education professors or, with one exception, those who were promoted from one job to another and got raises.
Altogether, more than 3,200 state employees earning more than $100,000 per year accounted for an annual payroll of approximately $432 million—an average of about $135,000 each.
The average pay of a state civil service employee is approximately $39,600.
In most cases—but not all—the pay increases were 4 percent increases. A 4 percent increase for one making $100,000 would be $4,000. That would fund four such increases for workers earning only $25,000 a year.
There were those, however, who did better. Much better.
Michael Diresto went from $103,792 in 2011 to $118,792 this year, a $15,000 (14.5 percent) bump. He was listed by the Department of Civil Service as a “director” in the Division of Administration (DOA) for both years. On the DOA web page, he is identified as an assistant commissioner for policy and communications.
Bruce Unangst, executive director of the Real Estate Commission, also saw his annual salary balloon from $109,000 in 2011 to $125,000 this year, a 14.7 percent increase.
In the governor’s office itself, Executive Counsel Elizabeth Murrill did extremely well for herself. Her 2011 salary of $110,000 grew to $165,000 this year—before her transfer to DOA where presumably, it will remain the same. Her one-year pay hike was a whopping 50 percent, according to Civil Service records.
In the Department of Insurance, 14 employees earning $100,000 or more received 4 percent increases from 2011 to 2012 while four others, including an attorney supervisor, did not. Insurance Commissioner James Donelon this year also hired former state legislator Noble Ellington, who had no experience in insurance, as deputy commissioner at a salary of $149,900.
Five of 14 employees of the Port of New Orleans Port Commission who earn $100,000 or more were awarded pay raises ranging from 5.5 percent to 7.5 percent.
At the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), several employees received pay increases from 2011 to 2012 despite the pay freeze. They included Executive Director Robert Marier, who went from $196,102 to $205,899 (5 percent); Associate Director Cecilia Mouton, from $185,640 to $194m916 (5.1 percent); Executive Director John Liggio, from $119,044 to $125,068 (5 percent), and Executive Director Lisa Schilling, from $107,702 to $134,638 (25 percent).
None of the four changed job classifications, according to the Civil Service report. One who did change classifications got a 14.8 percent increase, a lower percentage than Schilling. Courtney Phillips was promoted from a Medicaid Program Manager 4 at $102,814 per year to Chief of Staff at $118,019.
One other executive director, six DHH attorneys, a deputy director, a deputy secretary, a budget administrator, an economist and a program director received no salary increases from 2011 to 2012.
Debra Schum, listed as an executive officer in the Department of Education (DOE), got a 20 percent pay raise, from $110,000 in 2011 to $132,000 this year while Kerry Lester, also an executive officer with DOE, got a $5,000 increase, from $150,000 to $155,000 during the same time frame.
But what is particularly interesting about the DOE payroll is the seemingly inordinate number of new hires of people at six-figure salaries, especially in the Recovery School District.
State Superintendent of Education John White has brought in no fewer than 10 new employees at salaries in excess of $100,000 this year alone—and that’s not even counting Deirdre Finn, a part time contract employee who will be paid $144,000 a year to work as communications manager for the department—from her home in Florida.
The idea of hiring a commuting employee, apparently borrowed from DHH and Carol Steckel, who is being paid $148,500 a year as a “confidential assistant” to DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein to commute back and forth from her home in Alabama, seems to be catching on.
David “Lefty” Lefkowith is being paid $146,000 to commute back and forth from Los Angeles to work at DOE as a “director,” according to Civil Service records. He describes himself in a DOE video, however, as a “deputy superintendent.”
Other new, six-figure employees added by DOE this year include:
• Gary Jones, Executive Officer, $145,000;
• Melissa Stilley, Liaison Officer, $135,000;
• Michael Rounds, Deputy Superintendent, $170,000;
• Hannah Dietsch, Assistant Superintendent, $130,000;
• Francis Touchet, Liaison Officer, $130,000;
• Stephen Osborn, Assistant Superintendent, $125,000;
• Sandy Michelet, Executive Director, $120,000;
• Kenneth Bradford, Director, $110,000;
• Heather Cope, Executive Director of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, $125,000.
For the Recovery School District (RSD), both the high turnover and six-figure salaries are significant. That’s because there is substantial turnover despite the high salaries and that turnover has stymied any progress the already troubled RSD might have realized.
No fewer than 20 employees earning six figures have left the RSD since 2009, records show.
For the three years from 2010 to 2012, there was a turnover rate among those earning $100,000 or more ranging from 29 to 44 percent from the previous year Civil Service records indicate.
Of 24 RSD employees earning six figures for the current year, 15, or 62.5 percent, are new hires, records show. These include:
• Stacy Green, School Nurse, $145,000;
• James D. Ford, Administrative Superintendent, $145,000;
• Dana Peterson, Administrative Superintendent, $125,000;
• Adam Hawf, Administrator, $120,000;
• Mark Comanducci, Executive Director, $115,000;
• Helen Molpus, Administrative Chief, Officers, $115,000;
• Kizzy Payton, Administrative, Business Office, $110,000;
• Hua Liang, Administrative Chief, Officers, $110,000;
• Nicole Diamantes, Administrative, Other Special Programs, $105,000;
• Isaac Pollack, Administrative, Principal, $105,000;
• Desmond Moore, Administrative, Principal, $105,000;
• Betty Robertson, Other Business Services, $105,000;
• Robert Webb, Administrator, Other Special Programs, $105,000;
• Sametta Brown, Administrator, Regular Programs, $100,800;
• Ericka Jones, Administrative, Principal, $100,000;
• Eric Richard, Administrative, Principal, $100,000.