The number of District government employees who make at least $100,000 a year has jumped dramatically since the D.C. Council and the financial control board eliminated a salary cap seven years ago, climbing from about a dozen in 1997 to more than 660 today, according to city payroll records.
The $100,000 club includes top administrators in 60 city agencies and the District's two highest-ranking elected officials, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams ($145,600) and Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp ($135,600).
City Administrator Robert C. Bobb is the city's highest-paid non-school employee, but his $185,000 a year is nearly a $40,000 cut from his previous job.
(Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)
But it also is heavily populated with doctors and lawyers, who are in strong demand in the private sector. And it includes an army of financial analysts and information technology specialists who have helped transform local government in the nation's capital from an inbred bureaucracy lumbering near bankruptcy to a sleeker, more efficient operation with $300 million in cash reserves.
That makeover has been dramatic. In 1995, the District claimed one six-figure salary on the payroll: that of then-city administrator Michael C. Rogers. But the government was bloated with more than 45,000 workers and, by all accounts, flat broke. Today, hundreds of workers earn $100,000 a year or more.
But the total city payroll has shrunk to just more than 32,300 workers, the budget is balanced, and most city agencies are providing improved services, with several free from court oversight for the first time in decades.
Williams (D), who took office in 1999, defended the District's long campaign to professionalize its ranks of public servants.
"In order to recruit the very best people in a competitive marketplace, we've had to pay wages that may seem high to some. The long and short of it is, I want to be sensitive as anyone to the salaries we're paying," Williams said. "But I believe they are competitive, that our government is improving and that we're getting our value for it."
The Post obtained salary information for local government workers in 14 jurisdictions across the Washington region to determine how public employees are compensated. For the most part, the data contained too many variables to allow comparisons across jurisdictions. Some cities and counties included part-time workers, for example, while others did not. Some included overtime pay and bonuses, while others provided only base salaries.
The District, meanwhile, is particularly difficult to judge because it is the only jurisdiction in the nation that must perform many functions of a city, a county and a state.
The D.C. data cover 22,400 full- and part-time employees who worked for the city at some point during the past year. The records include dozens of people who have left city employment. They do not include people who work for D.C. public schools, the University of the District of Columbia or several quasi-independent agencies, such as the D.C. Housing Authority and the Water and Sewer Authority.
Had education employees been included, D.C. Public Schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janney would have been the city's highest-paid public servant by far, with an annual salary of $250,000. (The city's previous top earner, former Sports and Entertainment Commission president and executive director Robert D. Goldwater, resigned last year, in part because of public criticism of the commission's deteriorating financial health and his own $275,000 salary.)
As it stands, City Administrator Robert C. Bobb takes home the richest paycheck in the John A. Wilson Building. Bobb, who was lured to the District last year from Oakland, Calif., makes $185,000 -- $50,000 more than his predecessor.
The council agreed to approve that salary in part because Bobb had a stellar reputation as a veteran city administrator and because he was taking a substantial pay cut from the $224,000 salary he made in Oakland.
"Now, to be quite honest with you, it looks like it's a good deal," said council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), who chairs the Government Operations Committee, which oversees city personnel policy. "Especially with the mayor being out of town so much, somebody has to run this government. Bobb is the 24-7 guy."