California pays more than 1,400 workers in excess of $200,000
Reporting from Sacramento -- More than 1,400 state employees were paid in excess of $200,000 last year, according to compensation data made public for the first time Tuesday on Controller John Chiang’s website.
Of those, 790 were prison doctors, dentists or nurses. More than 300 others were psychiatrists and other medical professionals working for the Department of Mental Health.
One prison doctor collected $777,423 in 2010 and a dentist took home $599,403, according to the website. The president of the state’s stem cell research agency received $482,234.
The database lists state positions by title and allows users to sort by department, salary range and total wages.
Chiang, a Democrat who has received millions in campaign contributions from state employee unions, did not include workers’ names even though that information is public and has been provided upon request for years.
In October, in response to the salary scandals in Bell, Chiang collected and published payroll information from California counties and cities. His staff left names out then because “it wasn’t our data, [and] couldn’t be verified or scrubbed for confidential information,” said Jacob Roper, a spokesman for the controller.
Chiang followed the same template in posting the state payroll. Roper denied that the identities of employees were left out to avoid upsetting the politically powerful employee unions.
The omission frustrated open-government advocates who say taxpayers have a right to see exactly where their money is going.
“The name, the position and the amount of money being paid to public employees should not be concealed,” said Robert Fellmeth, executive director of the Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego.
Total compensation for many of the best-paid state jobs on Chiang’s list was pushed higher — in some cases more than doubled — by six-figure payouts for unused vacation and sick time.
A May analysis by The Times of Chiang’s database — a version obtained by request, which contained employee names and greater detail on payouts — showed a prison psychiatrist, Fong Lai, received $594,976 for more than 2 1/2 years worth of unused sick time. A prison dentist, Robert Stogsdill, got a $553,253 payout.
Managers of state agencies are supposed cap at 80 days the amount of unused vacation time their employees can save but routinely ignore the limit, The Times found.
In all, 309 state employees got lump payments in excess of $100,000 in 2010, the data show.
For years, prison doctors, dentists and nurses were unable to use their vacation time because high numbers of vacancies in those jobs meant there was nobody to treat inmates if the employees took time off, said Nancy Kincaid, spokeswoman for the receiver put in charge of prison healthcare by federal court order.
But regular pay can also be very high for prison healthcare professionals. Sixty-five hold jobs with salary ranges that exceed $300,000, according to Chiang’s website, which does not specify employees’ base salaries.
It was impossible “to fill vacancies at many prisons until they raised these salaries,” Kincaid said. “These are not easy places to work; the salaries had to be competitive.”
Four state jobs come with salary ranges that reach above $500,000, according to Chiang’s website.
The chief investment officer for the state pension system can make up to $612,000. The president of the workers’ compensation insurance fund can make $585,360.
By contrast, Gov. Jerry Brown is paid $173,900 per year.
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