Forbes: Why Washington, D.C. Is In Trouble – 7,780 Public Employees With $100,000 Salaries Cost Taxpayers $1 Billion 53_DC_is_in_trouble

June 16, 2020 12:34 PM




By Adam Andrzejewski

Local politicians in Washington, D.C. claim a $1.5 billion budget deficit due to the coronavirus pandemic. So, they’re lobbying Congress for a two-year $3.15 billion bailout. 

But the city’s financial woes aren’t stopping nearly 8,000 city government employees – including the mayor and city council – from bringing home six-figure salaries and higher. 

Washington’s leaders try and fail each year in their application for statehood, but they’re already out-earning their state counterparts. 

Our auditors at found that Mayor Muriel Bowser earned $220,000 last year – an amount exceeding every governor of the 50 states($202,000). 

What’s more, DC city council members ($141,282) out-earned members of every state legislature – including New York ($130,000). DC city council chairman Philip Mendelson ($210,000) out-earned all members of Congress except for Speaker Nancy Pelosi ($223,500).

We found school crossing guards routinely making $67,324; the abandoned vehicle program manager earning $97,913; a director of alcoholic beverages making $192,000; the city librarian earning $223,863; city psychiatrists billing up to $260,000; and the city administrator making $307,000. 

Our interactive mapping tool allows users to quickly review every public employee in Washington, D.C. making more than $100,000 (by ZIP code). Just click a pin and scroll down to see the results in your neighborhood rendered in the chart beneath the map.


Every major agency in Washington, D.C., supports employees making more than $100,000 per year. 

Metropolitan Police Department (MPD): Police chief Peter Newsham ($273,156) out-earned every four-star general in the U.S. military ($268,332). 

Other MPD administrative positions out-earned the secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security ($179,700), one of the nation’s top law enforcement officials. Even the director of Police Complaints made $214,273 last year. 

MPD Executive director Michael Tobin ($214,273); assistant chiefs Robert Contee and Lamar Greene ($207,454); supervisory attorney Advisor Terrence Ryan ($191,201); and commanders Willie Dandridge and Ralph Ennis ($188,112) also out-earned the DHS secretary. 

Public Schools: Chancellor Lewis Ferebee made $280,000 and out-earned U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos ($199,700). Nearly 2,250 educators with the K-12 schools made more than $100,000 last year.

Four education deputies to the chancellor earned $228,363. Eleven chiefs received salaries up to $189,891 – including “chief of talent and culture” ($184,518) and “senior deputy chief of school culture” ($175,023). Another 19 “deputy chief” positions earned up to $155,798. 

Compared to the latest available national statistics, the DC schools have more than twice the number of administrators per student. Principals made up to $199,000, and 96 six-figure assistant principals earned up to $141,688.

So, how are the students doing in the classroom? Proficiency on standardized tests ranged from an average of 30-percent in math to 35-percent in reading. 

Public Library: Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan ($223,863) out-earned everyone employed at the National Archive and the Smithsonian Institution ($201,400). For additional context, the commissioner of the Chicago Public Library earned $167,004 last year.

Other six-figure staffers included the General Counsel Grace Perry Gaiter ($188,113); Human Resources Director Barbara Ford-Kirven ($180,544); and Chief of Staff Joilette Mecks ($180,253). Those staffers joined another 50 library employees whose pay exceeded six-figures.

Parks and recreation: The chief of staff (Jason Yuckenburg $180,000) out-earned the secretary at the U.S. Department of Interior ($175,700) – a cabinet level position whose agency manages one-fifth of all land in the USA. 

Other high earners in the DC parks department included the director (Delano Hunter $161,614) and deputy director (Ella Faulkner $150,000). 

Mayor’s office and administration: In addition to the mayor ($220,000), six other employees in the mayor’s office out-earned every U.S. governor. 

High earners included the city administrator (Rashad Young $307,000) and “deputy mayor(s)” include Health and Human Services (Wayne Turnage $225,915); Greater Economic Opportunity (Lucinda Babers $211,770); and Education (Paul Kihn $211,770). The mayor’s legal counsel (Ronald Ross $211,000) and the chief of staff (John Falcicchio $211,000) also received high pay. 

Our auditors found other interesting positions that paid well:

School traffic control officers: In the DC public schools, there were 74 “officers of traffic control” that made between $60,000 and $70,000 last year. Management did even better: “traffic control” directors earned up to $156,840 and supervisors cleared $136,011. 

What do these crossing guards and officers do when school is out of session?

Attorney Advisors: DC residents are likely unaware that they employ 232 legal advisors – their real job description is lawyer – who made up to $191,201. In fact, the Public Service Commission paid four “attorney advisor” positions $182,204. The DC attorney general has six advisory positions that paid $174,520. 

Supervisors of the attorney advisors earned even more money – up to $191,201 at the agencies of employment/disability and police/fire. The position at energy/environment paid $185,483.

Public affairs officers: David Umansky handled the public relations for the city CFO and made $169,545 last year. Across city agencies, there were 77 PR officers employed and their average pay was six-figures. 

With the vast expansion of federal government during the last decade, the nation’s beltway is booming. It’s quite an economic subsidy when you’re the capitol seat.

DC is flush with cash and rakes in more than enough money to pay its bills. It boasts assets of $5.8 billion compared to $4.9 billion in liabilities, according to watchdog group Truth In Accounting.

Nevertheless, last month, The Heroes Act passed the U.S. House and would provide $3 billion over a two-year period earmarked for DC as a coronavirus bailout. The bill is stuck in the Senate.

As city politicians continue to push their bailout and statehood agenda, it’s important to note that most would take a substantial pay cut if they actually mirrored the salary scale from the states.

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