Dozens of $100k earners staffing D.C. Council

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Photo - The John A. Wilson Building, which houses the D.C. Council. (Examiner file photo)
The John A. Wilson Building, which houses the D.C. Council. (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Liz Farmer

One of every five people on the D.C. Council payroll earns more than $100,000 annually, a figure more than twice what the average worker in the District makes, a Washington Examiner analysis has found.

The highest-paid individual is the council chairman, Phil Mendelson, whose yearly salary is $190,000. The second-highest-paid person on the nearly $14 million payroll is Christopher Warren, the council's chief technology officer, who earns $155,000. A total of 37 people out of 188 earn six figures.

(See which council staffers make more than $100,000 per year)

On the other end, 19 employees, excluding interns and part-time workers, earn below the District's median worker salary of $42,000. The lowest full-time salary is $30,000 for a legislative clerk to Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham.

Ed Lazere, executive director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, said the staff salaries are comparable to those of area workers who have degrees.

"The ranges don't surprise me for what someone who has a college degree and is a dependable employee might earn, especially if they've been with a council member for a long time," he said.

(See a full list of council staff salaries)

Excluding the council members, who earn between $125,000 and $129,000 and are currently on their two-month summer break, those who make up the six-figure-income list include chiefs of staff, committee directors, general counsels and administrators. Many on the list have law degrees. Two chiefs of staff earn more than the council members they work for.

When elected officials' salaries are excluded, 14 percent of the 176 staff members earn more than $100,000, and staff members' median salary is $68,000.

Mendelson was traveling and not available to comment on this story. However, his chief of staff said the council still functions during its break from public sessions.

"The only thing we are not doing is holding hearings," Denise Tolliver said in an email. "We are still handling constituent issues, having meetings with stakeholders, going through the mounds of paperwork that has accumulated during the council session. Our office is still open eight hours a day. Some of us are still working more than the eight hours."

Mendelson, who took on some of former Chairman Kwame Brown's committee and staff, has the largest payroll at nearly $1.5 million for 22 people. Ward 4's Muriel Bowser has the lowest payroll with $542,539 for eight people.

In Los Angeles, the only other U.S. city that has higher salaries for its council members than the District, 11 percent of the 277 total staff members earn six figures and the median salary is $59,174. Citywide in Los Angeles, the median worker salary is less than $26,000, according to census data.

Examiner data editor Jennifer Peebles contributed research to this report.

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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