The Top 20 Highest-Paid Montgomery County Employees in 2017

Firefighters continue to dominate the upper echelons of government pay


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Photo via MontgomeryCountyMd.gov

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Twelve of the top 20 highest-paid Montgomery County government employees in 2017 were firefighters.

Firefighters employed by the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service have been found to dominate the upper ranks of those who are paid the most by the county since the county first started publicly releasing employee salary data in 2014. The 2017 data, released earlier this year, does not include employees of Montgomery County Public Schools.

In 2016, 26 firefighters were among the 44 county employees who made more than $200,000 in gross pay, which includes overtime and bonuses. In 2017, there were 33 firefighters among the 50 employees who made more than $200,000.

Two firefighters—captains Raymond Sanchez and Patrick Stanton—have been among the top 15 highest paid county employees since 2014. In those four years, Stanton collected $1.014 million in salary and overtime pay, while Sanchez collected $975,970.

Those amounts make the two firefighters the highest-paid county employees over that past four years except for Chief Administrative Officer Timothy Firestine.

In 2017 Firestine was once again the highest-paid county employee. Firestine, who runs the day-to-day operations of the county and oversees county employees, has been the highest-paid county worker each year since the data release began in 2014. He made $315,216 in gross pay last year, edging out Stanton, who received about $274,200, which included the firefighter’s $123,500 annual salary and the $117,900 he made in overtime.

Sanchez was the fourth highest-paid county employee this year; he was paid approximately $134,200 in salary and $125,300 in overtime pay. Stanton was first hired by the county in 1990, while Sanchez joined the fire department in 2002.

Nineteen firefighters were paid more in salary and overtime in 2017 than Fire Chief Scott Goldstein, who received gross pay totaling $214,200 and no overtime pay.

County spokesman Patrick Lacefield said the county chooses to pay overtime to firefighters to prevent having to hire additional firefighters, whose employee benefit and pension expenses would cost more over the long term.

“It can be cheaper for the taxpayers for us to use overtime rather than simply hire more people,” Lacefield said.

He also noted the fire and rescue service is required to fully staff fire trucks and other rescue apparatus with employees who have received specialized training. And when a firefighter with such training is not available, the service will ask firefighters with the required training to work overtime to ensure trucks are staffed properly.

Stanton is a paramedic who also serves as a 911 center manager and instructor at the county’s Public Safety Academy, while Sanchez has special hazardous material training, according to Lacefield.

He added that both men regularly sign up for overtime duty and said that other firefighters don’t always choose to make themselves as available for overtime work. Firefighters are paid time and a half for overtime hours.

Many of the highest-paid county employees who aren’t firefighters received more in gross pay—ranging from about $8,000 to $15,000—than their annual salaries last year. Lacefield said these employees received “lump sum” payments that will not affect their base salaries or their pensions. Some employees listed in the county data may have received lower gross pay than their annual salaries due to taking more leave than the paid leave days they earned.

Uma Ahluwalia, director of the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, was the highest-paid county female employee in 2017, earning $237,500—putting her at No. 11 on the highest-paid list. She ranked behind seven firefighters, police Chief Tom Manger, the County Council’s now-retired administrator Steve Farber and Firestine.

Of the top 20 highest-paid employees in the county, two were women—Ahluwalia and county budget director Jennifer Hughes. Just six women were among the 50 highest-paid employees in the county, according to the data. The high number of fire department employees among the top 50 may partly explain why there is a lack of women among the top earners—just 6 percent of the department’s professional firefighters are women, according to demographic data presented to the council in 2017.

County Executive Ike Leggett received $192,800 in gross pay last year, making him the 66th highest-paid employee in the county. 

The following were the 20 highest-paid county employees in 2017 (use the arrow or numbers below to navigate the list):

20. Harash Segal, chief information officer, Department of Technology Services

Gross pay: $223,726
Annual salary: $215,120
Date hired: Oct. 15, 1985

Data provided by Data.MontgomeryCountyMD.gov Photo via MontgomeryCountyMd.gov

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