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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 House Speaker T.W. Shannon quietly granted 52 House staff members pay raises ranging from 1.95 percent to 33.33 percent last July.

The raises were granted while rank-and-file state employees were being told they would have to await the results of a compensation study before being considered for pay hikes next year.

The three largest percentage raises went to staff attorneys, who received $15,337.50 to $15,500 a year pay increases. The lowest percentage raise went to a housekeeper who now makes $500.20 a year more than her $25,708 former salary.

The 52 employees represent nearly half of the state House's 117 permanent employees. Their combined raises total more than $280,000 a year.

Only seven state Senate staff members have received raises this year. Each received a 7 percent raise after completing a one-year probationary work period.

Shannon could not be reached for comment Monday.

Joe Griffin, spokesman for Shannon, said the speaker felt he needed to move quickly because the House has been losing staff members to other state agencies that pay better.

“We had an internal study here and we found that we had a problem retaining employees,” he said. “Time and time again it came up that pay was an issue.”

Even after the pay raises, most House staff members still will be paid less than their state Senate counterparts, Griffin contends. He provided reporters with a chart containing comparative data.

The chart indicated two staff attorneys who had been receiving $46,500 a year received $15,500 raises, increasing their pay to $62,000 a year. The pay of a third attorney was raised $15,337.50 a year — going from $50,662.50 to $66,000. A staff attorney in a comparable position in the state Senate makes $73,905 a year, according to the chart.

Jennifer Monies, press secretary for Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, disputed some of the House's comparisons.

“Several of the ‘Senate Comparable' salaries on the House document are not apples-to-apples comparisons,” she said.

For example, the salary of the House's chief legal counsel was raised from $94,000 to $101,000. The chart provided by the House indicated a comparable position in the state Senate is paid $113,062.

However, Monies said the highest-paid staff attorney for the Senate is only paid $89,395.20. The Senate staff employee who earns $113,062 a year is the director of legislative operations, which she contends is not a similar position.

The House used that same $113,062 Senate salary as a “comparable” for the $105,000 salaries now paid to the Clerk of the House and to the House parliamentarian/administrator after each received a $9,000 pay boost. Monies claims those aren't similar positions, either.

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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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