WASHINGTON — The Department of Housing and Urban Development is instituting a permanent salary cap of $155,000 for top officials at public housing authorities, following reports of oversized compensation packages that included roughly $600,000 for the top official at the Atlanta Housing Authority.
Atlanta Housing Authority President and Chief Executive Renee Glover and top executives at housing authorities in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Chelsea, Mass., received excessive salaries in 2010, according to data from a national compensation survey conducted by HUD. It said Glover received $644,241.
"When Americans across the country are struggling to make ends meet and then they turn around and see public officials making hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of dollars, it just creates public cynicism about the federal government," said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog organization.
Lack of transparency in government spending allows "hijinks like this to occur," Ellis added.
The plan and survey data were first reported by the Associated Press.
Glover released a statement late Monday saying that her compensation had been misrepresented. She said that in 2010 she earned a salary of $312,500, a one-time payment of $126,000 for 12 years of accrued vacation, $135,000 in bonuses, $11,250 for unused paid vacation and $4,100 for unused paid sick leave — an amount that totals $588,850, more than $55,000 less than what was reported in the national compensation survey.
Glover added that in 2011 she received a total salary of $325,000.
"I was disappointed to learn that 'anonymous government officials' have apparently spoken with the media and misrepresented the facts related to my compensation agreement with Atlanta Housing Authority," Glover said.
Other housing authorities also paid their top officials extremely well. Los Angeles' housing authority paid its executive director $606,320 in 2010, while executive directors at the Philadelphia Housing Authority and Chelsea Housing Authority earned $417,688 and $357,635 respectively. These compensation packages included salaries, bonuses and other benefits.
In December, members of the Los Angeles City Council pushed for more direct control of the Los Angeles Housing Authority after reports of lavish taxpayer-funded spending at restaurants and a $1.2-million payout for the authority's former top executive, Rudy Montiel, who was fired in March 2011.
These highly compensated officials, however, appeared to be outliers. The median compensation for the 449 top officials at agencies with 1,250 HUD units or more was $115,615. This data included salaries and bonuses but excluded other benefits.
Earlier this year, HUD announced a $155,500 cap on top executive salaries at larger public housing authorities for the 2012 fiscal year. The new plan would make the limits permanent and apply them to all forms of compensation paid for with federal money.
The regulations would cap salaries for top officials at $125,926 at housing authorities with between 250 and 1,249 units and at $88,349 for agencies with fewer than 250 units.