Except we may be incorrect in saying we were wrong. Got that? Read on.
Through a diligent search of payroll records, we have found that Bobby, while imploring state agencies to “do more with less,” has at least set an example of fiscal restraint for others to emulate.
Six months after taking office, the payroll in the governor’s office stood at a whopping $5.9 million. Today, a leaner and meaner staff (if indeed, it is possible to be any meaner) in the governor’s office is costing Louisiana taxpayers “only” $3.9 million in salaries.
As of June 30, 2008, Bobby had 92 full time employees drawing $5,659,800 in salary (an average of $61,519 each), not including medical and retirement benefits. He also had 34 part-timers for an additional $267,900, an average of $7,879 each, according to figures obtained by LouisianaVoice.
Where the governor’s office had 92 full time employees in 2008 drawing $5.66 million, today he has only 64 full-timers making $3.66 million, records show.
The number of part time employees also has decreased from 34 in 2008 to only 21 today, but their average salaries have increased considerably.
But wait! Things are never as they seem. It turns out that several former employees were quietly moved around to other agencies and are still on the state payroll. Chance McNeely, who went from a $65,000 per year policy analyst for all of nine months to a $102,000 position as head of environmental compliance at the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), comes immediately to mind.
Stephen Winham also provided this interesting information: It seems that in Fiscal year 2008-2009, there were two transfers from the governor’s office to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the following year, two more transferred from Bobby’s office to the Board of Regents and 11 more to DEQ to prepare a place for Chance McNeely. And in FY 2012-2013, three more left the fourth floor and moved across the street to the Department of Education. Winham’s source for his information is this link: http://www.doa.louisiana.gov/OPB/pub/ebsd.htm
“You are giving them too much credit for position and funding elimination,” Winham says, “since these positions and funding were simply transferred to other departments in the state budget. Based on your information, I’m guessing that at least 64 percent of the savings you show was really just transferred out,” he said.
So, before you get too excited over the apparent good news, we have to offer our disclaimer that the numbers are somewhat misleading.
Some of those reductions could also be employees who see the writing on the wall and are simply bailing out before the end of Bobby’s term of office expires in about 11 months. In such cases, departures would have nothing to do with Bobby’s efforts to reduce his own staff numbers while gutting needed state agencies of key personnel and leaving unqualified administrators in place.
Because we were interested only in the numbers and salaries of staff members, none of the figures included Bobby’s own salary of $130,000 per year.
Nine of those full time employees in 2008 earned $100,000 per year or more. Those nine combined to earn just over $1.2 million, or an average of about $134,800 each.
In addition, the governor’s office and governor’s mansion combined to employ 20 security personnel from the Department of Public Safety (State Police) at a per diem rate of $92.32 over and above their normal salaries. Because all 20 were not on duty at the same time, it was impossible to determine the total amount paid in per diem to the security personnel.
Today, the per diem rate remains the same but we could only account for 19 security personnel, one less than in 2008. Most the other numbers, however, have decreased significantly.
One major exception is the salary of Bobby’s executive counsel. In 2008, it was Jimmy Faircloth who resigned to run unsuccessfully for the Louisiana State Supreme Court. His salary then was $167,000 per year.
The current executive counsel, Thomas Enright, who supposedly advised Bobby last June to sign that bill giving Superintendent of State Police Mike Edmonson that retirement increase that was subsequently ruled unconstitutional, currently earns $165,000 per year, $2,000 less than Faircloth.
But where there were nine employees earning $100,000 or more in June of 2008, today there are “only” seven combining to make just over $900,000, or an average of $128,585 each.
Chief of Staff Timmy Teepell was making $165,880 per year in 2008. Apparently his brother, Taylor Teepell, doesn’t have the same value to Bobby at $130,000 per year as Deputy Chief of Staff. His $130,000, incidentally, is the same that Bobby makes as governor in absentia.
Kyle Plotkin is something of a success story in Bobby’s administration. Beginning in November of 2008 with his appointment as press secretary, he was named as Special Assistant to the governor at $85,000 per year on July 26, 2011 but is now Bobby’s Chief of Staff at $165,880 per year, more than double his salary of just three years ago.
Matthew Parker, Timmy Teepell’s brother-in-law, pulls down $120,000 as one of 15 “directors” in the governor’s office, though we’re unsure as to what he directs.
In 2008, the 34 part time employees combined to make $267,900 and while the $243,300 being paid to 21 part time employees today is $24,600 less than in 2008, the average salaries of the part-timers has increased from $7,879 per year to $11,585.
In 2015, we found a couple of staffers drawing pretty good chump change considering their listed status as part time employees. Bobbie Johnson, an “assistant,” was listed at $18,574 per year and “Executive Assistant” Megan O’Quin was listed at $30,420.
But those were nothing compared with a couple of part time salaries we discovered for 2008. Michael Wascom, a part time “special counsel,” was listed at $31,949 per year while James T. Ryder, was pulling down $156,000 per year as a part time “special counsel,” just $11,000 per year less than his boss, Faircloth.
All this is well and good, Bobby; you’ve set the pace for asceticism. You slashed your staff from 126 to 85, a 32.5 percent reduction and cut the combined salaries accordingly, by 33.9 percent. Good for you.
But still, the question must be asked: does it really require 85 people to run your office when apparently it isn’t even necessary that you be there half the time? I’ve been to the fourth floor of the State Capitol. There is not room for 85 people to maneuver in that space with any efficiency.
While you have reduced the number of warm bodies in your office and while you have cut salaries significantly, we still have to wonder at the necessity of 85 people bumping into each other and apparently getting very little done, based on any real accomplishments during your time in office.
Besides the 15 directors, there are four deputy directors, two assistant directors, two executive directors, one project director, one representative, two managers, one project manager, one executive administrative assistant, three administrative assistants, eight executive assistants, one administrative staff officer, four advisers, four coordinators, a specialist, five assistants, one executive counsel, two assistant executive counsels, a law clerk, a chief of staff, two assistant chiefs of staff, one deputy chief of staff, along with a few clerks, receptionists, a single garden variety deputy, and one housekeeper.
But just what are the duties of a director? A specialist? An administrative assistant? An executive assistant? An executive administrative assistant? An advisor? What does a coordinator coordinate? What’s the difference between a director and a project director? What does either direct? What’s the difference between an assistant director and a deputy director? And what does a manager manage that a director can’t direct? Deputy? Deputy what? And just one housekeeper to clean up after all those people?
And just one more note, Bobby: You may pull the wool over the eyes of an old worn out news reporter but it’s difficult to fool a retired budget officer.