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Oklahoma House staff members granted pay hikes, while other state employees told to wait

Oklahoma House leaders quietly granted 52 staff members pay raises ranging from 1.95 percent to 33.33 percent last July, at the same time rank-and-file state employees were told they would have to await the results of a compensation study before being considered for pay increases.
by Randy Ellis Modified: December 10, 2013 at 10:00 am •  Published: December 9, 2013

State Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, said House leaders decided to give House staff members raises before other state employees so the House staff could serve as “a type of laboratory for what we're working on with state employee compensation.”

“As state employee compensation goes forward, hopefully as soon as this session, you're obviously going to see … an emphasis on performance and not necessarily on across the board raises,” Murphey said.

The House would like to develop a system in which customers of state employees as well as supervisors have a say in who should receive the highest pay increases, Murphey said.

House members also would like colleagues of employees who leave to have a say in whether open positions should be left vacant, he said.

If co-workers agree to take on extra work so a position can be abolished, perhaps the salary savings can be split among co-workers and taxpayers, Murphey said.

House leaders released data on staff pay raises Monday in response to a request the Tulsa World made about three weeks ago.

This is the second time in six weeks that news reporters have discovered that state government agencies have granted large raises to certain state employees while most employees were being told raises would have to wait on a compensation study that was finally released Friday.

The Oklahoman disclosed Oct. 28 that several agency directors had been granted raises in the $40,000 to $50,000 range, sparking complaints from numerous state employees.

Murphey said the large pay increases to agency directors came as a surprise to many state lawmakers.

“There were a lot of us who were probably outraged,” he said.

“I think there are a lot of legislators who had no idea that was going to happen and there will be numerous legislators who will want to revisit that,” he said, predicting several bills will be filed to “fix” the problem.

Tom Dunning, communications coordinator for the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, said he believes it would be fairer for lawmakers to consider salary increases for all state employees at the same time.

Employees of large state agencies like the Department of Human Services and the Department of Corrections tend to lose out when raises are handled piecemeal because it is easier for small agencies to find money for raises in a budget, he said.

by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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