MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 10, 2013

Speaker's staff raises total more than $280,000


Associated Press

— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — While Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders waited for the completion of an independent study on state employee pay, House Speaker T.W. Shannon approved more than a quarter of a million dollars in pay increases for his staff, according to House documents released Monday.

The salary figures, initially requested by the Tulsa World, show about half of the 117 House employees received raises totaling more than $280,000 a year. The pay hikes for 52 House employees took effect July 1 and ranged from about 2 percent for a housekeeper to more than 30 percent each for three staff attorneys.

The news frustrated some state workers, because Fallin and legislative leaders delayed action on pay increases this year while they waited for a $200,000 independent study on employee compensation. State employees have not received an across-the-board increase since 2006, and the study released last week, showed state workers in Oklahoma earn about 7 percent less in pay and benefits than the private market.

Shannon’s spokesman Joe Griffin defended the action.

“We had an internal study, and we found that we had a problem retaining employees,” Griffin said. “Time and time again, it came up that pay was an issue, and that when it came to the House’s pay rates compared to other state agencies, even within the rotunda, we just didn’t compare.”

Jess Callahan, the president of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, is a social worker for the Department of Human Services in Choctaw County who earns about $31,000 a year.

“The message was the raises would come after the study. Obviously that hasn’t been the case,” he said. “To feel like we’re not a priority is the most frustrating thing, knowing the services we provide to the Legislature’s constituents every day.”

The largest hikes went to three staff attorneys. Ryan Bair saw his salary jump from $50,662 to $66,000; Erin Kennedy and Angela Michael each saw an increase from $46,500 to $62,000.