Mayor Vince Gray is looking to boost the maximum pay he can offer his agency heads by $100,000.

That’s according to this bill, which would expand the the number of executive pay levels in District government from five to seven and increase the maximum pay he could offer his agency heads from $179,096 to $279,000.

“The Mayor shall designate the appropriate pay level for each subordinate agency head position based on market analyses and other relevant criteria,” the bill says.

The bill comes a few months after Gray took a political beating for paying some of his cabinet members salaries that exceeded the council-set pay cap. In March, Gray announced he was reducing the pay of seven agency heads to get them within the cap, saying it wasn’t worth the effort to try and get council approval for the extra pay. And there’s also the awkward point that Gray’s hiring and pay practices are currently under investigation by a whole bunch of people, including the council.

There are a handful of city employees who make well above the cap, but their salaries have to be approved by the council. Curiously, Gray’s bill would still require council approval for anyone whose pay would fall into the the tiers he’s proposing, which makes LL wonder why Gray introduced the bill in the first place.

At a hearing today, Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh noted that the federal government only has five pay levels for executive pay and cabinet heads top out at just under $200,000.

“It is curious that we’re offering more,” Cheh said.

Curious indeed, LL will update when/if the mayor’s office responses to his questions about the necessity and purpose of the bill.

UPDATE: LL put this post up before the hearing was over. Here’s an update: Fraternal Order of Police Union boss Kris Baumann just testified that he thought the bill was bad policy and even worse politics, considering that the council’s investigation is still ongoing.

“I can’t even understand why we’re even here talking about more money,” Baumann said.

Cheh was in complete agreement, saying “there’s no way” she was going to allow the mayor’s proposal to get past her committee.


The Gray administration’s interim H.R. boss, Shawn Stokes, told Cheh later in the hearing today that the D.C. Department of Human Resources supports the bill because it is both “reasonable and necessary.”

“The legislation allows the district the much needed flexibility to hire and retain the best in the field,” Stokes said.

Councilmember Phil Mendelson, who like Cheh is a strong ally of the mayor, asked Stokes why the new pay scales were higher than what the feds pay cabinet members. After a few false starts by Stokes, a frustrated  Mendo asked: “Can you point to the piece of paper that gives the council the rational?”

Stokes could not. (And in an even more awkward and painful exchange, Mendo went off on Stokes for not being able to defend the other part of the mayor’s bill, which allows the city to keep paying the police chief, the fire chief, the schools chancellor and the chief medical officer salaries that are above the pay cap (and predate the Gray administration). Mendo said Stokes’ analysis of why the city should keep paying these salaries was “bush league.”)

So to recap: The mayor, who is currently embroiled in an investigation related to high executive pay, is asking the council to approve legislation that allows him to make it easier to offer higher salaries for top positions. The proposal is so bad that some of his political allies can’t help but openly mock it. And the person Gray sends to defend the proposal appears completely clueless.

LL actually thinks that the executive pay scale for the District is a little screwy (the schools chancellor makes $275,000 a year while the attorney general makes $100,000 less) and probably could use some adjustment.

But politically, LL has to wonder what the hell Gray was thinking. It’s not just the investigations, Gray just proposed raising the income tax of the city’s wealthy while cutting social services for the poor to help fill a massive budget gap. This is not a good time for the mayor to be talking about paying upper-level city employees more money. In fact, there probably isn’t a worse time for Gray to do so.

Talk about bush league.