199 L.A. County workers made at least $250,000 last year

Nearly 200 Los Angeles County employees earned more than a quarter of a million dollars in 2009, according to a list of the county’s top earners released late Monday in response to a Public Records Act request from The Times.

The highest earners list was dominated by physicians and other medical personnel, but also included county firefighters and a handful of top sheriff’s employees. Some of the best-known names on the list belong to elected officials — although none of the five county supervisors, who make $178,789 a year, qualified.

Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who made $345,587, and Sheriff Lee Baca, who made $325,664, were No. 25 and No. 38, respectively. Both Cooley and Baca received a substantial amount of compensation listed as “other earnings,” in Cooley’s case about $53,000 and in Baca’s nearly $47,000.

The Times requested the base salary, overtime and “other earnings” for county employees whose total annual pay exceeded $250,000. “Other earnings” can include bonuses for special skills or responsibilities or unused benefits cashed out as taxable income, among other things. County officials were not immediately able to detail what types of additional payments went to Cooley and Baca.


No. 5 on the list was the county’s chief executive, William T Fujioka, who made $403,140 in 2009. Four physicians earned more: Elaine Yang ($430,909), Gail Anderson Jr. ($421,648) and John McDonald ($413,807) at Harbor- UCLA Medical Center, and Christine Holschneider ($423,533) at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center.

Overtime played a big role, with only 65 people making the list on base salary alone. Thirty workers made more than $80,000 in overtime. Twenty-two of them work for the county Fire Department, four work for public hospitals, two were psychiatrists for the Mental Health Department, and two were physician specialists for the Sheriff’s Department.

Four employees — all pilots for the Fire Department — made more in overtime than they did in base salary.

They are Charles Moreno, who earned $153,324 in overtime over a base salary of $140,504; Brian Novak, who earned $156,812 in overtime on top of a base salary of $125,769; Thomas Short, who earned $144,862 in overtime on top of a base salary of $140,504; and Patrick Stefanski, who earned $137,337 in overtime on top of a base salary of $127,633.

Thomas Tyrrell, a principal deputy county counsel, said many Fire Department members who made the list worked on the Station fire between Aug. 26 and Oct. 16, 2009. Some of their earnings, he said, were reimbursed by Sacramento and Washington.

Other workers who made more than $100,000 in overtime are Joseph Mirkovich, Jr., a psychiatrist ($122,665); and Lawrence Laughlin, a sheriff’s physician specialist ($117,992).

Many of the top earners were high-profile department chiefs and their top deputies. They include John Schunhoff, interim director of Health Services ($365,637); Jonathan Fielding, director of Public Health ($358,411); Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswara, chief medical examiner-coroner ($322,470); P. Michael Freeman, fire chief ($316,296); Michael Judge, public defender ($304,231); Pete Delgado, County- USC Medical Center chief executive ($293,015); Gail Farber, director of Public Works ($268,130); Carol Meyer, chief network officer for Health Services ($260,586); Wendy Watanabe, auditor-controller ($259,351); and Trish Ploehn, director of Children and Family Services ($257,624).

The county counsel’s office had delayed the release of the information, saying they needed time to give all 100,000 county employees the opportunity to object to the release of their names for what they called “personal safety reasons.”


Although The Times’ request covered fewer than 200 employees, the county counsel’s office is surveying all workers because another news organization, the Contra Costa Times, filed a request to identify salary information for all county employees.

All 199 county workers who earned more than $250,000 in 2009 were identified to The Times.