Salaries examined of state agency overseeing non-bank lenders

A small Oklahoma state agency tasked with regulating payday lenders dolled out nearly $200,000 in raises in two years for employees at the Consumer Credit Department, according to state salary records.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND mrolland@opubco.com Modified: September 8, 2012 at 11:40 pm •  Published: September 10, 2012
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The budget documents provided to the nine commissioners who oversee the agency show that the proposed increase in 2013 includes hiring two new examiners at roughly $42,000 and an executive secretary at $49,000.

Classifying jobs

But Lesher said in addition to the agency needing more examiners, its examiners need to be paid more.

Examiners are listed as classified employees, which caps salaries for that position at $37,000. His 2013 budget proposed increasing those salaries to more than $40,000 in many cases.

Legislation to make examiners unclassified employees failed, and Lesher said the raises likely won't come.

Trish Frazier, communications director for the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, takes exception to the idea that classified employees cannot be given raises.

Frazier said agencies can provide market adjustment studies and raise the paygrade for classified employees.

“There is a problem of unclassified employees, the agencies providing them pay raises and it not being a part of the system,” Frazier said.

8“There are many thousands of classified employees doing important jobs and the agency must provide them with fair compensation as well.”

She said the average classified employee in the state earns 19 percent below market.

“While not begrudging anyone getting a pay raise, we would like to see it throughout the agency, everyone being brought to the market levels not just a few,” she said.

Lesher said the commission plans to resume lobbying efforts this session to get the examiner positions unclassified.

Increased fees

Greg Piatt is the registered lobbyist for the agency. Piatt was paid almost $30,000 in 2011 and 2012. The budget proposed increasing that to $50,000 in 2013.

Lesher said the increase would hire Piatt's full firm — GAP consulting — rather than just an individual to lobby lawmakers on behalf of the state agency.

The Consumer Credit Department actually doesn't run on state funds. Fees and fines charged to the various lenders support the agency.

Lesher said the department recently increased fees in order to become a non-appropriated state agency.

In fiscal year 2012, it collected $3.5 million from pawn brokers, rent-to-own companies, mortgage brokers, health spas and precious metals dealers. That's up from $3.1 million in 2011.

Lesher said the agency pays 20 percent of its gross revenues to the state. It previously paid 30 percent, he said, but the percentage was reduced.

The only money taken from the state is $30,000, used to pay for consolidated IT services, Lesher said.



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