A small state agency tasked with regulating payday lenders doled out nearly $200,000 in raises in two years for employees at the Consumer Credit Department, according to state salary records.
The raises come at a time when an across-the-board pay hike for state employees has not occurred since 2006.
Roy John Martin, general counsel for the Consumer Credit Department, said the raises brought salaries more in line with the market and accounted for added responsibilities and promotions.
Martin's own salary increased $28,000 in the two-year period to roughly $90,500.
The largest pay increase went to a chief examiner whose pay rose from about $39,000 in 2011 to $77,000 in 2013.
Scott Lesher, administrator of the department, said some of the raises proposed for 2013 may not occur.
“Just because they're there doesn't mean they're going to occur,” Lesher said. “It's also a case where if you don't budget it and for some reason you wanted to do it, then what are you left with? Going back and doing a budget revision.”
Overall, the Consumer Credit Department's budget for salary expenses grew from $709,000 in fiscal year 2011 to $856,000 in fiscal year 2012. An increase of $1.3 million has been proposed for 2013.
Lesher said the majority of that increase has been due to the added responsibility of performing examinations — much like an audit — of Oklahoma mortgage companies that aren't banks.
But the salary increases also include sizable raises for employees, many of whom received large raises the previous year.
Lesher had the second-largest increase, from about $74,000 in 2011 to a proposed $105,000 in 2013.
Martin said the commission voted to increase Lesher's salary because they wanted to try and make it comparable to salaries paid to other heads of state regulatory agencies.
Lesher still makes less than two of his counterparts in state government, according to state salary records.
Insurance Commissioner John Doak made roughly $127,000 in fiscal year 2011 and Banking Commissioner Mick Thompson made almost $140,000, including his longevity pay that is awarded to longtime state employees.
New responsibilities for the commission came under the Oklahoma Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing Act, drafted in response to the 2008 mortgage crisis.
“Before that, we didn't do annual exams on mortgage brokers,” Lesher said.
“We licensed them but we didn't do examinations. Now we do, without additional FTEs, of course, full-time employees.”
Lesher said a manpower study showed an additional 25 to 30 examiners are needed, but the department is now making do with nine.