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LL was ready to concede the fact that nobody cares if a couple million dollars or so of District money is misspent and let this week’s column about more than two dozen retired cops improperly double dipping quietly die. But then LL got an email from Mayor Vince Gray‘s chief of staff last night complaining about a comparison between the double dipping mess and the exorbitant pay and nepotism that marred Gray’s early tenure.
Says COS Chris Murphy:
It’s a little disingenuous to lump together what’s happening now with the “early hiring and pay practices” of the Gray Administration. The double dipping started during the previous administration — we are the ones cleaning it up. If there’s not a great legal case to recoup the money —and no one seems to think there is — it’s because we’re stuck with the facts of what occurred during the prior administration. We welcome the scrutiny here because it only highlights that we weren’t the ones that caused this problem — but if you’re going to scrutinize us please do us the favor of being honest about where the blame lies for how we got here.
The Gray administration certainly deserves credit for cleaning up a mess not of its own making by disallowing any future double dipping (though it ought to be noted that four of the double dippers were rehired in 2011, while Gray has been in office). But Murphy is the one being disingenuous by not at least acknowledging a large and shady part of this story involves something the Gray administration is entirely responsible for. That part of the story involves MPD Police Chief Cathy Lanier giving huge raises to three of her double dipping subordinates just days before the city was set to slash their improper pay.
Commander Daniel Hickson, who oversees the MPD’s First District, saw his pay jump from $129,999 to $177,000. Lieutenant Jacob Major’s salary went from $100,000 to $136,050. And Bill Sarvis, a medical services manager who has only been on the job since March, had his salary go from $125,000 to $152,686. For Hickson and Major, their salaries now far eclipse what others of similar ranks are making.
Even more disingenuous was the Gray administration’s early attempts to try and convince LL that these pay raises were entirely related to job performance and had nothing to do with the fact that the city was going to enforce pension offsets of the three employees’ salaries. It was only because LL obtained emails from Lanier showing otherwise that city officials copped to the fact that the pay raises and the pension offsets were related.
When asked about the pay raises, the mayor told LL in a statement: “I am deferring to Chief Lanier on these personnel issues and feel confident that she did what was needed to retain talented individuals in the department.” In other words: I’m too scared to call Lanier on her shady raises. Go away.
To LL, that seems like the same lack of oversight and accountability Gray exercised with his former H.R. boss, Judy Banks, and chief of staff, Gerri Mason Hall — the chief architects of the freewheeling and high spending early days of the Gray administration. That’s why, Mr. Murphy, the comparison is apt.
Of course it’s not hard to see why Gray (and the rest of the council, for that matter) might make take such a hands-off approach with Lanier. If there’s anything pols know how to do, it’s read a poll. And the polls make it clear: in this town the police chief is a heck of a lot more popular than the mayor.