County Council Votes Against Leggett’s Proposed Salary Schedule for Top Employees

One member said county executive is not taking task seriously


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A Montgomery County Council committee voted against a proposed annual salary schedule for top-level county government employees Thursday and said the salary ranges set by County Executive Ike Leggett were too high for too many employees.

This is the second time council members have told Leggett that they don’t agree with the salary schedules he is proposing for appointed employees such as his aides and department directors.

The council passed legislation last year requiring the county executive to create a salary schedule, which must be approved by the council, after an Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) report found the county’s department directors were paid on average 15 percent more than those working in neighboring jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia.

However, council member George Leventhal said during Thursday’s meeting of the Government Operations Committee that Leggett has not taken the task of creating the salary schedule seriously. The committee voted 3-0 to reject the proposed salary schedule.

“The county executive wants to maintain the ability to set salaries at whatever he sees fit,” Leventhal said.

Last year, Leggett submitted to the council a schedule that would set salaries ranging from $133,028 to $239,451 for department directors, county attorneys, the county executive’s special assistants, the fire chief and the police chief.

The OLO report that examined salaries of county employees found that department directors were paid an average of $206,685—the highest of any jurisdiction in the area and above Washington, D.C.’s average pay of $176,536 and Fairfax County’s $169,623.

Leggett has said previously that Montgomery County uses less high-level employees than other jurisdictions. The OLO report noted Montgomery County has 27 director positions compared to Fairfax’s 39 and D.C.’s 54.

“We think where we are is where we ought to be,” Leggett’s spokesman Patrick Lacefield said Thursday.

Leggett wrote in a memo to the council last year that the salaries paid to top-level employees were 15 percent to 40 percent lower than those paid by other regional public and private employers with revenues of more than $1 billion.

Leventhal responded in a June memo to Leggett that government salaries should not be compared to private sector salaries.

“It is not fair to our taxpayers to expect executive-level salaries for public service occupations like libraries, corrections or recreation to keep pace with salaries of executives in private sector companies,” Leventhal said.

Leventhal wrote that some department directors of large agencies such as the fire, police and transportation departments deserve higher salaries. But other department directors that helm agencies such as at the public information office and office of consumer protection, which are smaller and have less responsibility, should not be included in the same salary group as directors of large departments, according to Leventhal.

Leggett’s new version of the salary schedule lists the same range as the rejected schedule, plus a 2 percent pay increase—so high-level employees’ salaries would range from $135,689 to $244,240.

“This one is identical to the one that we said is not sufficient,” council member Nancy Navarro said. “I think this is a futile exercise.”

Leventhal, who championed the salary schedule bill last year, said that perhaps a new county executive elected in 2018 would be more receptive to creating salary ranges that the council could approve.

"Maybe in the future a real pay scale will be developed that will be a useful management tool," Leventhal said in an interview with Bethesda Beat Thursday. "But Mr. Leggett chose not to do that."

Leggett has said he is not running for a fourth term, and would be prohibited from doing so because of term limits passed by voters in November.

Salary comparison charts that were included in the Office of Legislative Oversight's analysis of high-level salaries. 

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