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Linda Cropp’s salary hike is running a bit ahead of inflation.

When D.C. Council Chair Linda Cropp threw a holiday bash at her Northwest home last month, she had ample cause for celebration. In September, the council moved back to its refurbished ancestral home in the Wilson Building, and Congress later paid the city an unprecedented measure of respect by passing the D.C. budget without conditions.

Oh, and one other thing: Cropp had just become one of the highest-paid elected municipal officials in the land.

Via a little-noticed provision buried in the D.C. budget, Cropp and her council buddies awarded her a 21 percent annual raise, bringing her annual pay to $123,700. Only Los Angeles councilmembers and the speaker of the New York City Council, who earn $133,000 and $129,500, respectively, claim more local taxpayer dollars than Cropp—for presiding over populations of 3,694,820 and 8,008,278. Cropp answers to 572,059 residents.

Reflecting on the recent salary hike, Cropp spokesperson Mark F. Johnson explained, “The chairman has worked for all these years for less pay than she deserves.”

Perhaps Johnson is alluding to the chair’s uncanny ability to keep embarrassing pay hikes out of the public eye. In 1999, Cropp orchestrated a two-month official silence on a handsome upgrade for newly elected members to avoid suspicion that our elected officials have the Midas touch when it comes to compensation packages.

And Johnson, Cropp’s press secretary, attempted to deflect attention from this latest episode. In addition to parrying questions about his boss’s self-rewarding ways, Johnson sent an e-mail to councilmembers, warning them about this story: “The reporter’s tone may be light but the intent of the call may be to find ‘something’ and then run with it,” wrote Johnson. “I feel as though the piece may end up being negative, although I made every effort to put a ‘smiling face’ on every one of my responses.” CP