Group raising questions after S.C. House staffers receive raises
COLUMBIA — A conservative think tank is raising questions after S.C. House staffers received raises of between 5 percent and 31 percent.
House staff raises
The totals for S.C. House of Representatives’ employees now making at least $50,000 exclude the 3 percent raises for all state employees that took effect in July. The raise percentages in parentheses are rounded to the nearest percent:
Charles Reid, House clerk: $159,414 (10%)
Mitch Dorman, sergeant-at-arms: $90,600 (10%)
Don Hottel, assistant clerk in charge of research: $113,436 (5%)
Beverly Smith, chief of staff, Ways and Means Committee: $113,900 (7%)
Brad Wright, chief of staff and legal counsel, speaker’s office: $114,000 (11%)
Greg Foster, deputy chief of staff/communications director, speaker’s office: $85,000 (22%)
Thomas Hauger, geographic information system analyst: $57,750 (5%)
Patrick Dennis, chief counsel, Judiciary Committee: $95,000 (9%)
Andy Fiffick, chief counsel, Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee: $85,100 (31%)
Len Marini, director, Education and Public Works Committee: $83,434 (5%)
Mary Cauthen, director, Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee: $80,404 (5%)
Van Hegler, director, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee: $78,362 (5%)
Tim Rogers, research/budget analyst, Ways and Means Committee: $100,707 (5%)
Paul Patrick, budget director, Ways and Means Committee: $77,000 (10%)
Rena Grant, legislative director, Ways and Means Committee: $77,000 (10%)
Emily Heatwole, research/budget analyst, Ways and Means Committee: $63,600 (20%)
Kate Owen, research/budget analyst, Ways and Means Committee: $51,125 (made $38,001-$42,000 previously)
Jennifer Dobson, staff counsel, research office: $73,215 (10%)
Sherry Wright Moore, research analyst, research office: $69,675 (5%)
Emma Dean, assistant chief counsel, Judiciary Committee: $69,300 (10%)
Andy Allen, research analyst, research office: $66,089 (15%)
Patricia Miller, research assistant, speaker’s office: $56,565 (made $46,001-$49,999 previously)
Rick Fulmer, legal counsel, Education and Public Works Committee: $55,439 (10%)
Ava Brumfield, research assistant, Medical, Military Affairs and Public Works Committee: $52,500 (5%)
Julie Lybrand, research assistant, Education and Public Works Committee: $52,367 (made $46,001-$49,999 previously)
Jeannie Potter, executive assistant to the speaker: $57,300 (made $46,001-$49,999 previously)
Cynthia Lee, executive assistant to the clerk: $57,213 (10%)
Linda Anderson, executive secretary, Judiciary Committee: $53,884 (made $46,001-$49,999 previously)
Benny Debruhl, assistant sergeant-at-arms: $63,001 (10%)
Herbert Jones, assistant sergeant-at-arms: $52,966 (made $46,001-$49,999 previously)
Johnny Robinson, Blatt Building security supervisor: $59.773 (10%)
Jeffrey Tolar, House security: $52,759 (made $46,001-$49,999 previously)
Ann Martin, building manager/chief receptionist: $59,648 (5%)
C. Lem Harper, assistant building manager: $52,482 (made $46,001-$49,999 previously)
Mary Folger, journal clerk: $82,376 (10%)
Karen LaRoche, information resources manager: $82,212 (10%)
Juanita Levy, bill clerk: $76,663 (10%)
Rosalind Harriott, index and general clerk: $75,031 (12%)
Linda Hornsby, creative design/typography: $56,546 (10%)
Debra Brooks, recording clerk: $50,399 (made $42,001-$46,000 previously)
Shirley Black, accounts manager: $73,322 (5%)
Tona Quinton, accounts clerk: $60,795 (5%)
Karen Rucker, accounts clerk: $50,461 (made $38,001-$42,000 previously)
Blake Wehunt, mail and supply clerk/page supervisor/audiovisuals: $61,221 (5%)
Mag Rigby, amendment clerk/page manager: $53,309 (5%)
Source: S.C. House
The pay bumps went into effect in October 2011 but were first reported last month by The Nerve, the reporting arm of the S.C. Policy Council.
The increases had escaped public scrutiny because the state’s legislative and executive branches customarily do not announce the awarding of raises.
Ashley Landess, the Policy Council’s executive director, took issue with the pay bumps, asking why the House has to pay “high” salaries to employees who work for a part-time Legislature.
“It’s not appropriate,” she said. “The question is whether or not these employees are necessary in the first place? What do these employees do? Why do we pay so many of them high salaries?”
For the past four years, most state workers have received the 3 percent pay increases that went into effect in July.
The House salary increases preceded that across-the-board pay bump, which House staffers also received.
GOP House Speaker Bobby Harrell of Charleston approved the earlier raises.
Greg Foster, a spokesman for Harrell, said although the General Assembly meets for six months most years, lawmakers and their staffs work year round on legislative matters and with state agencies and constituents on a number of different issues.
“Just because the regular six month session ends in June, that doesn’t mean that work on future and ongoing legislative issues, work with state agencies and work serving the concerns and issues of over 4.6 million statewide constituents ends,” he said.
By way of example, Foster added, “The economic development package that resulted in Boeing’s decision to come to South Carolina was done during the off-session, a major job creation success that the Policy Council has strongly opposed.”
The Policy Council is against the use of special tax incentives to lure companies to South Carolina.
Foster said House staffers have taken on additional duties in recent years due to unfilled vacancies that resulted from a December 2008 hiring freeze for all but the most critical positions.
And, he added, all House staffers were forced to take 10 days of leave without pay between January and July 2009.
Foster received a 22 percent raise, the second-largest of any House staffer, bringing his salary to $85,000, excluding the additional 3 percent raises that went into effect this summer.
The Post and Courier has reported Foster also has earned additional compensation from a political action committee run in part by Harrell.
Andy Fiffick, chief counsel for the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee, gained the largest raise at 31 percent.
Fiffick’s salary after the increase was $85,100.
House Clerk Charles Reid, the highest-paid chamber staffer with a $159,414 salary, received a 10 percent pay bump.
All told, 45 House employees now making at least $50,000 received raises, according to salary data provided by the chamber in response to an S.C. Freedom of Information Act request by the newspaper.
At least 20 of those employees received salary increases of 10 percent or more.
The raise amounts to several employees are not known because their previous salaries were below $50,000 and listed in ranges.
The Nerve has reported that at least 14 Senate staffers received raises ranging from mostly 3 percent to 14 percent, for the same time period. Senate Clerk Jeffrey Gossett, the Senate’s highest-paid staffer, received a 3 percent raise to bring his salary to $152,966, according to records obtained by the think tank.
The newspaper reported last month that four officials in Gov. Nikki Haley’s office received raises last fiscal year of between $5,000 and $12,000.
The raises came despite an overall decrease in the Haley administration’s salary total.
Reach Stephen Largen at 864-641-8172 and follow him on Twitter @stephenlargen.